PBS Kids underwriting changes provide more space for sponsor messages

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Changes to the underwriting policies for PBS Kids’ digital platforms approved last week will make sponsor logos more prominent and create new opportunities for delivering promotional messages online.

Sponsors of children’s content want more underwriting opportunities across platforms, Ira Rubenstein, digital s.v.p. and g.m., told the PBS Board’s Station Services Committee at its meeting Oct. 26 in Arlington, Va. To help children’s content producers secure that funding, “we needed a solution in the digital space,” he said.

The committee voted unanimously to approve the policy changes, effective immediately. Underwriter logos will be relocated to a more prominent spot on each program’s home page; pages that alert visitors that they are leaving PBSKids.org will accept informational messages and visuals; and full-length streaming episodes will begin with a pre-roll sponsorship message of up to 15 seconds.

The underwriting policy was also amended to clarify that the display of website URLs in children’s broadcast content and promotional announcements must follow an FCC rule: Web pages where viewers are directed cannot directly link to commercial material.

PBS spokesperson Jan McNamara said the requirement, also known as the “two-click rule,” means that links to any commercial material must be at least two clicks away from children’s content.

In June, the FCC admonished WWLP, a Media General station in Springfield, Mass., for violating that rule. The station showed the URL www.lazytown.com, the website for a show on Sprout, a commercial children’s network, in October 2013. “Even though the website address was displayed for only a short duration (estimated at one-half of one second), the display of a website address during program material, for any period of time . . . is a violation,” the FCC said in its ruling.

Rubenstein said at the committee meeting that the new rules apply to underwriting credits on all distribution platforms.

McNamara said that PBS is “only just beginning the process of determining how the amended policy will be implemented.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the terms of the “two-click rule.”

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