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FCC looking at Nicktoons cartoon 'Zevo-3' for possible regulatory violations

September 22, 2010 |  1:24 pm

A new cartoon that Viacom's kids cable channel Nicktoons is making is being probed by the Federal Communications Commission for potential violations of the Children's Television Act.

Although the show -- "Zevo-3" -- is not set to premiere until next month, it has already been blasted by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, a media watchdog group that often raises concerns about over-commercialization of kids TV. The cartoon characters of "Zevo-3" were initially seen in specially made comic books used to market Skechers USA Inc.'s children's shoes and were created by Skechers Entertainment.

Two weeks ago, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood filed a complaint about "Zevo-3" with the FCC that said the show violates FCC regulations because it was made by Skechers Entertainment and its characters are known primarily to kids through campaigns to sell shoes. Nicktoons, a sister channel of Nickelodeon, is available in about 60 million homes.

Under the FCC's rules regarding children's programming, not only is there a limit on the number of commercials allowed to air in shows aimed at kids age 12 and under, there are also rules regarding product placement and advertisements for products within shows that feature the same products. 

In its complaint, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood argued that the characters in "Zevo-3" are commercial logos and thus the show "must be considered a promotion for Skecher shoes."

The FCC said it would seek comments on "Zevo-3." That is usually the first step toward a further investigation and, if the agency found Nickelodeon had violated its regulations, a potential fine. However, just because the FCC seeks comments on a complaint, that does not mean it will ultimately decide to investigate further.

If the FCC were to issue a fine, the distributors that carried the show would be on the hook, not Nickelodeon. That is also how it works with the FCC's indecency rules.

A Nickelodeon spokesman said, "As we previously stated, we do not believe that the show is a program-length commercial, nor do we agree that its transmission would violate the Children's Television Act or any of the Commission's rules or policies."

-- Joe Flint

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