Federal efforts to limit television advertising to children and increase educational programming has worked better for broadcast than cable and satellite services, according to a report this week by the Government Accountability Office.

In the past 15 years, broadcasters have reported 7,000 violations on federal limits for how much advertising can appear in childrens programs, the GAO reported Thursday. Those violations have resulted in $3 million in fines. But cable and satellite providers have reported virtually none.

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Why the discrepancy when broadcasters, cable and satellite providers are held to the same rules? All are supposed to limit advertising during children’s programming to 10.5 minutes per hour on weekends and 12 minutes per hour on weekdays.

The way rules are written, there is little incentive for cable operators to self-report that they’ve broken the rules, experts say.

When broadcasters seek license renewal from the Federal Communications Commission, they have to report how much children’s programming they have and violations of advertising limits. Cable providers don’t have to do this — they don’t check in regularly with the FCC in the way broadcasters do and don’t have their ability to operate on the line.

“As such, FCC does not have the same opportunities to review compliance with the act and FCC rules as it does with broadcast stations,” the GAO wrote in its report.

“Without oversight, FCC cannot ensure that cable operators and satellite providers are complying with the act, potentially exposing children to excess or inappropriate advertising that the act and FCC rules seek to minimize and leading to unbalanced enforcement,” the GAO said.

The oversight agency recommended the FCC develop a strategy for overseeing cable operators’ and satellite providers’ compliance with advertising limits to children.


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