Viacom and Disney will pay a combined $1.5 million to settle government charges in connection with violating the amount of commercials that kids are exposed to. Viacom will pay $1 million as a result of ad programming that aired on its subsidiary Nickelodeon. Disney will pay $500,000 because of commercials that aired over its ABC Family Channel.
"As a result of routine audits conducted by Enforcement Bureau field agents, serious questions arose concerning the amount of commercial matter during children's programs on the ABC Family Channel and Nickelodeon," the FCC said in a statement. "Both channels are hugely popular with children and are carried on virtually all cable systems nationwide, each reaching in excess of 85 million households."
FCC rules limit the commercials that can be aired in certain children's TV shows to 10.5 minutes per hour on weekends and 12 minutes per hour during weekdays. The time limits apply to over-the-air broadcasters and cable operators for programming originally produced and aired for an audience of 12 years and younger.
The rules also bar broadcasters from airing commercials that refer to or offer products that are related to the children's program.
Viacom conducted its own investigation of programming in 2003 and determined that it inadvertently broke both the minutes-per-hour limits and the product placement regulation.
ABC also conducted an internal audit and concluded that during a one-year period of time, there were 31 half-hour episodes in which commercials for products associated with children's programs were aired.
FCC Chairman Michael Powell said the announcement marked the end of "major investigations" regarding rules violations governing limits on advertising during children's TV programming.