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On September 21, 2022, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) announced a proposed combined fine of $3.4 million against Sinclair Broadcast Group, Nexstar Media Group and 19 other broadcast television licensees for violations of rules limiting commercial matter in children’s television programming.

FCC rules codified under the Children’s Television Act of 1990 limit the amount of advertising that may be aired during children’s programming to 10.5 minutes per hour on weekends and 12 minutes per hour on weekdays.  Where a program associated with a product is aired with commercials for that product, the program is treated as a program-length commercial, where the entire program counts as commercial time.

The broadcasters allegedly committed a willful and wanton violation of these rules by repeatedly airing a commercial for a Hot Wheels-themed toy during a Hot Wheels-themed show.

The FCC reasoned that, considering the “cognitive abilities of young children,” mixing the Hot Wheels commercials with content presented a clear risk for confusion between program content and commercial matter that the rules were designed to avoid. Separate statements were issued from FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel and Commissioner Geoffrey Starks.