Hastings Communications and Entertainment Law Journal


In the Children's Television Act of 1990, Congress directed the FCC to address the problem of "program-length commercials" aimed at children. Such programs, essentially thirty-minute ads for toys and other products, proliferated during the 1980s as the FCC deregulated children's television. In response to the Children's Television Act, the FCC adopted a policy that purported to address the problem, but actually avoided facing it. In its rule-making proceeding, the FCC disregarded Congress' concerns, misconstrued the issue presented, and mischaracterized the ineffective policy adopted as consistent with FCC rulings of the 1960s and 1970s. The need continues for a more effective policy on programlength commercials. The FCC should address the problem by reviewing broadcasters' handling of commercialization and children's television at license renewal. That approach would be flexible enough to be effective, and would be constitutional within the boundaries of allowable regulation of broadcast and commercial speech.