Disney, Viacom Fined $1.5m for Kids’ Ad Overkill

22 October 2004

Viacom's Nickelodeon and the Walt Disney Company's ABC Family Channel have had their wrists slapped for exceeding the adverting time limits for children's programming

Although the $1.5 million (€1.19m; £819.8k) in fines imposed by the Federal Communications Commission are the largest yet levied for such transgressions -- Viacom $1m; Disney $500k -- they are unlikely to register more than the tiniest blip on their respective bottom lines.

The FCC limits commercial airtime in certain children's shows to a total of ten minutes in any one hour at weekends and twelve minutes Monday through Friday. The shows in question are those produced for and targeting audiences aged twelve and below.

Nor may broadcasters run commercials that relate to (or offer) products linked to program content. If, for example, a cartoon show ran a commercial featuring a doll of a cartoon character featured in that show, the whole program would be deemed a commercial -- taking it well beyond the permitted limit.

Neither of the media titans denies the charges. Viacom claims it inadvertently violated both the minutes-per-hour limits and the product-placement rules.

And following an internal audit, ABC admitted to thirty-one violations over a twelve month period when commercials for products associated with kids' programs were aired in error.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff