The FCC has issued a call for public comment on the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood’s petition that the upcoming Nicktoons children’s television show Zevo-3 violates the public interest. It is the first children’s show to feature commercial spokescharacters; the stars are characters whose only previous existence was in commercials for Skechers shoes. CFCC believes the show violates the Children’s Television Act and FCC policies that limit the amount and kind of advertising in children’s television programs. Comments must be filed by October 18.
Zevo-3, produced by Skechers (the footwear giant) is scheduled to begin airing on Nicktoons on October 11. The animated series stars superheroes named Kewl Breeze, Elastika, and Z-Strap and a villain named Dr. Stankfoot who, until now, have only been used in advertisements to promote specific lines of Skechers shoes. The characters were originally created by Skechers for comic books distributed in shoe boxes and have also appeared in numerous Skechers’ television ads. Since the characters themselves have always only been ads, CFCC says that the show’s broadcast will violate the time limits for commercial matter in kids’ TV shows (12 minutes per hour on weekdays) and FCC policies that call for strict separation of commercial matter and programming.
Children are not clear on the difference between programming and advertising, and blurring the line further by putting advertising characters into programs turns them into an infomercial. Zevo-3 is the first children’s program based on advertising logos. Its main characters, Elastika, Kewl Breeze, Z-Strap and the evil Dr. Stankfoot have only appeared in advertisements for Skechers shoes. Zevo-3 violates policies designed to protect children from overcommercialization on television such as the limits on commercial matter (12 minutes per hour on weekdays) and clear separation between commercial matter and programming. It escalates commercialism in children’s media and will open the floodgates for a slew of children’s programming based on spokescharacters such as Ronald McDonald, The Burger King, and Tony the Tiger. The CCFC’s petition is asking the Commission to uphold the few laws and rules that exist to protect children–not asking the FCC to create new rules.
This isn’t the first time a corporation has tried this: In 1992, Fox planned to air a show based on Chester Cheetah, the Cheetos spokescharacter. However, when advocates petitioned the FCC, the show was pulled. In the intervening eighteen years, there has been no development of children’s television programming based on advertising spokescharacters – until now. Zevo-3 might be the first, but unless it’s stopped it won’t be the last. Public opinion will matter, and it’s essential that the advocacy, public health, and education communities weigh in on behalf of children. That’s why the FCC needs to hear from parents, teachers, and other concerned adults.
The deadline for comments in October 18 and it does not need to be more than a single sentence: I support the CCFC’s efforts to enforce the existing FCC regulations and policies by protecting children from commercials masquerading as programming in Zevo-3. Be sure to refer to #10-190.
If you are filing your comment as an attachment (Word or .pdf), you can upload your submission.
Or, type or cut and paste a brief comment into the FCC’s express form.
CCFC’s petition and the supplemental material provide more background.