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Bush Gets Bill to Limit Ads

October 9, 1990

WASHINGTON (AP) _ People who think children are brainwashed by watching too many television commercials hope President Bush will overcome his reservations and sign into law a bill that would limit the number of TV sales pitches to youngsters.

The legislation passed unanimously by both the House and the Senate also would require TV stations to pay more attention to the educational needs of young viewers.

Broadcasters say they can live with the measure, but White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said last week the administration had ″very strong reservations″ about the bill, which would condition a station’s license renewal on how well its programs serve the needs of children.

The Justice Department has advised Bush that the bill unconstitutionally intrudes into program content and thus would be an infringement on the First Amendment guarantee of free speech.

The president has not said what he will do.

Children’s TV advocates fear he will veto it.

The legislation, which received final congressional approval last week, would limit commercials during children’s shows to 12 minutes per hour weekdays and 10.5 minutes per hour weekends.

After similar restrictions were lifted from broadcasters in 1984, commercial air time crept up to as much as 14 minutes per hour for some kids’ shows, while the amount of informational and educational programs for kids declined sharply, according to a survey released by the House Energy and Commerce telecommunications and finance subcommittee.

By comparison, regular prime time programming averages less than eight minutes of commercials an hour.

The bill would establish a $6 million endowment for children’s programming and require the Federal Communications Commission to begin a review of so- called program-length commercials - programs that interweave programming and commercial material, usually toys.

Some observers have noted, however, that any FCC rules that banned such shows as ″Teen-Age Mutant Ninja Turtles″ also could be used against programs such as ″Sesame Street,″ which also has a large commercial spinoff of toys and other products.

The measure has the support of a wide array of children’s, religious and psychiatric groups. And with the unanimous support in Congress, a Bush veto probably could be overridden.

There has been some speculation that instead of vetoing the bill, Bush will let it become law without his signature.

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