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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. rules governing television programing for children are to be reviewed in light of the proliferation of online videos and other technological changes.
U.S. lawmakers are also looking into whether the Children's Television Act, which requires broadcasters to air at least three hours per week of educational and informational programing for children, needs to be overhauled to reflect the current digital media market.
"The three-hour rule is only applied to broadcasters," Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Rockefeller said at a hearing on Wednesday questioning the adequacy of the 1990 law. "Does this limitation make sense today?"
The law, which dates back to 1990, also places limits on certain advertising to children.
Julius Genachowski, the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, told Rockefeller that he has ordered agency staff to revisit the law.
Genachowski said his agency will examine "the amount and quality" of educational programing available, and whether parents are able to find such programing and reviews of shows carried over the air or available via cable and satellite.
Advertising during children's programing would also be examined.
Genachowski indicated he was supportive of the basic thrust of the law. "Guarding against inappropriate marketing to children is as vital today as it was twenty years ago," he said.
After his testimony Genachowski told reporters that he did not know how much time the FCC study would require.
Gary Knell, president and chief executive officer of Sesame Workshop, said that, since 1990, consolidation in the industry has resulted in three companies -- Viacom Inc's Nickelodeon, Walt Disney Co and Time Warner Inc's Cartoon Network -- dominating programing for children ages 6 to 11.
"Consolidation has made it quite challenging for independent producers to emerge and prosper as the three maintain effective 'control' of the means of content and means of distribution," Knell said.
Reporting by John Poirier; Editing by Tim Dobbyn