White House wants guidelines for children's TV programming Compromise to be sought at meeting with networks

July 28, 1996|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON -- With a second White House TV "summit" set for tomorrow, the White House has been laboring furiously to bring the networks to a compromise on providing three hours of educational programming for children per week.

President Clinton has made children's television a campaign issue, and White House officials had hoped that the summit would be a high-profile celebration of the creation of government guidelines on children's television by the Federal Communications Commission.

But the FCC, under Chairman Reed Hundt, a Clinton appointee, has been locked in a stalemate over the children's TV requirements. "The White House wants closure on this issue, and they're trying to break the deadlock at the FCC," one TV industry executive said Friday.

White House officials met with representatives from the National Association of Broadcasters, the trade industry group, to try to create a plan for children's TV guidelines that the TV networks and the NAB would accept in time for the summit tomorrow. According to sources involved in the negotiations, the broadcast networks may agree to a plan that is a variation of the compromise proposal currently before the FCC.

Under the plan discussed Friday, broadcasters would agree to provide three hours of educational programming for children per week, as part of the renewal of their TV station licenses.

But they would have more flexibility in what they could count as their three hours of educational programming, including public-service announcements, TV specials and perhaps even their stations' work with children in their communities.

Broadcasters also want the FCC to eliminate the legal arguments it put forth as justification for imposing the three-hour-a-week guidelines. The networks say that the language sets the stage for additional regulation of their industry. Hundt and his staff say it's necessary to defend the FCC's decision in case it's challenged in court.

Despite their objections to three-hour-a-week guidelines, broadcasters say, they know they've lost the public relations battle on this issue, and they'd like to get it settled. There is strong support among the public and in Congress for guidelines requiring broadcasters to air a minimum number of hours of educational programming to fulfill their obligations under the Children's Television Act.

"Clinton is under pressure to get this settled by [tomorrow]," one industry executive said. "But we've lost the war on three hours a week."

The White House sought to play down expectations for the meeting, with John Emerson, deputy director of intergovernmental affairs, saying the purpose was to use the "the presidency as a bully pulpit, bringing the players in the entertainment industry who are involved in children's programming" together to talk about improving youngsters' TV.

Pub Date: 7/28/96

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