Telemundo parent Comcast has agreed to pay a fine of $495,000 after an investigation by the FCC found that some of the Hispanic broadcaster’s local stations had pre-empted children’s programming in favor of sports.
That action was deemed out of bounds under the federal Children’s Television Act of 1990.
The FCC said it would approve applications from Telemundo for local station license renewals, provided that the company pays the fine and abides by the terms of a consent decree mandating compliance with the CTA. The initial probe into the alleged violations stemmed from license renewals sought more than a decade ago.
“While the Commission does provide network-affiliated stations flexibility to reschedule preempted children’s television programming and still have it counted” toward legal minimums, the FCC said, “such programming must be rescheduled in order for it to be so counted and here that did not occur in certain instances.”
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FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly approved of the action, but reiterated concerns about the commission’s approach to children’s programming. As several commissioners have done in recent years, O’Rielly has recommended an update to the FCC’s procedures given the vastly more complex and crowded competitive landscape it is trying to regulate. Children are not only served only by a handful of broadcast programs, but by always-on streaming services such as YouTube and Netflix.
“The issues generating this item – preemption for live, high-demand programming and overly burdensome reporting requirements – are exactly those that justify the commission’s review of its current children’s television programming rules,” O’Rielly said in a statement. “In the end, I am confident that we can revise our rules to provide necessary and appropriate flexibility for local broadcasters while preserving and/or improving the experience of those watching children’s programming.”
An NBC/Telemundo spokesperson said in a statement that the consent decree resolves “children’s programming issues that occurred at some of the stations, mostly many years ago.” The company added that it has “worked with the FCC to resolve all outstanding matters in a cooperative and constructive manner. The NBC and Telemundo owned stations have a long and rich legacy of delivering high-quality programming to viewers of all ages, including our youngest audience members. The stations look forward to continuing to provide the educational and informational programming that our young viewers deserve and to fulfilling our public interest responsibilities in all respects.”
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