The status of a Senate measure that would limit the amount of commercial time during children's television programs was misstated in yesterday's Style section. The bill was passed last week. (Published 7/ 25/90)
Beware, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Your minutes may be numbered.
The House yesterday approved legislation that would restrict the amount of advertising that appears during television programs aimed at children.
The measure, which passed on a voice vote, would direct the Federal Communications Commission to limit commercial time during children's programs to no more than 10 1/2 minutes per hour on weekends and 12 minutes per hour on weekdays. The restriction would apply to both over-the-air and cable programming.
The FCC could modify the limits after 1992. A similar measure is pending in the Senate.
The Bush administration opposes the limits, saying they "may constrain revenues" and result in a reduction of children's programming, according to an Office of Management and Budget statement.
A 1988 survey by the National Association of Broadcasters, a trade group, found that one in five children's shows averaged more than 12 minutes of commercials per hour. Some children's programs had as much as 14 minutes of advertising per hour, according to Action for Children's Television, an interest group.
By contrast, prime-time programming averages less than eight minutes of commercials each hour.
"Far too long we have allowed children's TV to be driven solely by commercial considerations," said Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on telecommunications. Children's programming, he said, should be "the video equivalent of textbooks and the classics rather than the video equivalent of a Toys R Us catalogue."
"Too often the great potential of TV to educate children has been lost," said Rep. Matthew J. Rinaldo (R-N.J.), who added that children's television had become dominated by "games, toys and cereal."
The House-passed legislation, sponsored by John Bryant (D-Tex.), would also require the FCC to review its policy on shows whose primary purpose is to promote products to children -- essentially program-length commercials -- within six months after the bill is signed into law.
Congress passed similar legislation in late 1988, but President Reagan vetoed it after lawmakers had gone home for the year.
In 1974 the FCC embraced the television industry's voluntary guidelines that called for no more than 12 minutes per hour of advertising during children's programs on weekdays and 9 1/2 minutes on weekends. The agency repealed the policy in 1984 as part of its drive to deregulate the broadcasting industry.