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Example of an E/I "bug"; this one used for PBS and qubo programs.

E/I, which stands for "educational and informative," refers to a type of children's television programming shown in the United States. The Federal Communications Commission requires that every full-service television station in the U.S. show at least three hours of these programs every week.

In addition, stations must identify such shows on-screen with an "E/I" bug in a corner of the screen. Originally, this was displayed only during the first minute of the program, or, as a separate announcement prior to the show, but since 2004, all E/I shows must display the bug during the entire duration of the show, except during commercial breaks.

This requirement only applies to broadcast television stations. Cable channels are not covered, although some do place an "E/I" bug on their voluntary educational programming.

Peggy Charren of Action for Children's Television, and other like-minded activists and educators, are believed to be the most responsible for this requirement, which was enacted as part of the Children's Television Act of 1990.

Contents

Rule alterations

In 2005, the E/I rule was altered again, in relation to digital terrestrial broadcast television; all full-service stations with digital signals must carry the minimum weekly 3 hours of E/I programming on all its digital channels, regardless of the type of content they carry (such as news, weather, etc.).

In 2007, the digital subchannels' involvement in the E/I rule was changed again, depending on the number of free services offered by the station -- the station now must carry more than three hours of E/I programming, but how much more is determined by how many hours of "free programming" the station offers in digital. For every 28-hour period of free programming offered on the subchannels, the station must add an extra 1/2 hour of E/I programming, in addition to the 3 hours required on the main signal.[1][2]

What constitutes the shows as "E/I"

What constitutes the shows as "E/I" is determined by the Federal Communications Commission, which enforces the regulations. The agency took a more hands-on role in enforcing the rules in 1996, after the first few years of the act were ineffective[3] as stations claimed programs like The Jetsons, The Flintstones, G.I. Joe, daytime talk shows and Leave it to Beaver had educational elements.[4]

At regular intervals, each full-service station submits a list of programs that it either airs now or plans to air which it feels will inform, as well as entertain, viewers below age 18, and must occasionally announce on-air that this list is available to the public at the station's studios, and/or on the station's website.

Advertising policies

All children's television programming is subject to limits on the amount of commercial advertising. Stations can air no more than 12 minutes of ads each hour on weekdays and 10½ minutes an hour on weekends.

In addition, the FCC also has a very strict policy that an advertisement for a product tie-in for the program being aired is not allowed in any form, or else the entire program will be classified automatically as a violating half-hour program length commercial according to the FCC's definition, even if one second of a show's character is seen in an advertisement. The individual station has the responsibility to comply with the regulations and report instances of it happening within their quarterly children's programming report, even if the programming is transmitted by a network.

This has been demonstrated through several incidents where episodes of Pokémon airing on the former Kids' WB network featured a "fleeting reference" to products such as Eggo waffles, Fruit by the Foot, and the Nintendo Game Boy E-Reader accessory mentioning their products having a tie-in to the Pokémon franchise on the air. The FCC has fined individual affiliates of Kids' WB for the violation of the guidelines and upheld the fines on appeal, even though it was the network which transmitted the content.[5][6]

Meanwhile, promotion for related websites are allowed only under certain circumstances and must specify that the linked site is meant as an advertisement, and must be in compliance with the COPPA Act regarding personal information acquisition for advertisers online for children under thirteen years of age.

Finding compliance

When the FCC announced the new requirements, local stations tried to repackage existing children's shows as educational and informative, such as Hearst Television distributing Cappelli & Company, a children's program from their Pittsburgh station WTAE-TV across their broadcasting group, while Sinclair Broadcasting Group aired (Girl) Scouting Today from WPGH-TV (also based in Pittsburgh) on many of the chain's stations across the country to meet E/I requirements. The FCC turned down many of the requests. On the other hand, producers of true educational shows suddenly found a new market for their products, and reruns of shows like New Zoo Revue and Big Blue Marble suddenly became available on small-scale independent stations, which normally air religious shows, infomercials and home shopping programs. However, enforcement remains somewhat capricious: KDOC, an independent in Irvine, California and Green Bay's WLUK have both been allowed allowed to count reruns of the 1970s TV series Little House on the Prairie as an E/I show, due to its historical depiction of frontier life in the 19th century and its connection to the popular elementary-school book series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, though the show was not originally intended for that purpose. Also, Pax's talent showcases (America's Most Talented Kids) and animal rescue documentaries (Miracle Pets) were also counted toward the "E/I" requirement, with Pax giving them a special (though not quite true) "rating" of "TV E/I".[citation needed]

Likewise, PBS's PBS Kids, ION Television's qubo, and Trinity Broadcasting Network's Smile of a Child digital subchannel networks feature educational programming throughout their 24 hour schedules, and those networks display their E/I bug across most all programming, including program promotions and pledge appeals.

As of 2008, many of Discovery Kids' programs also include an E/I bug, even though the channel is available strictly on cable and satellite, possibly to have the programs stand out in the children's sections of electronic program guide listings search applications as having E/I content. Cable networks, such as Discovery Kids, are exempt from federal regulations regarding E/I programming. Discovery Kids originally presented a Saturday morning, E/I-friendly block on NBC from 2002 to 2006.

Exemptions from the rule are rarely allowed by the FCC; Olympic Games coverage from NBC was adjusted so that their qubo block could air in some form throughout the week for their stations to receive their E/I credit, while the ABC Kids lineup airs on Saturday afternoon instead on the network due to early morning coverage of The Open Championship in early July through 2009, when coverage moves to ESPN as of 2010, or on the Pacific Time Zone on Sunday mornings due to early ESPN College Football coverage on Saturday mornings. According to FCC records, TBN had received exemptions for their stations in the past due to their Praise-a-Thon telethons.

Digital subchannels

Digital subchannel networks may also provide the required E/I programming for their stations such as various programming on the Retro Television Network, and This TV providing E/I programming on their channel. NBC Weather Plus aired Weather Plus University, an educational program about weather and meteorology. whilst continuing to show current weather conditions inside the trademark "L-bar" on the left and bottom sides of the screen. Independent local weather subchannels, such as the Stormcenter 2 24/7 channel on WBAY-DT2 in Green Bay, Wisconsin balance out the requirements of the new rules by airing educational programming while airing their regular newscast on their main channel in order to keep viewers informed about the weather and meet the E/I needs of their license. Some other stations however have pulled digital subchannels entirely due to the regulations, such as WPRI/WNAC in Providence, Rhode Island making their digital weather channel cable-only to get around the regulations.

The Tube Music Network, which carried the program Wildlife Jams to meet the E/I guidelines, went off the air on October 1, 2007. A factor in the network's demise may have been a decision by Sinclair Broadcast Group to reduce their E/I liability; stations in the group have in the past been cited in media studies as carrying the absolute minimum of E/I programming possible.[7] Sinclair launched the network on their stations in March 2006, and then pulled the network from all of their stations at the end of 2006 because of various new FCC requirements for digital subchannels, not only for E/I, but also for the Emergency Alert System.

Scheduling

These programs generally air during the morning between 7 and 10 a.m. Monday through Friday, and all day on weekends, though legally, they can air anytime between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. local time. However, some commercial stations would show E/I programming during hours when very few kids would watch, such as after 10 a.m. on weekdays, when children are in school.

References

External links








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