PBS National Program Funding Standards and Practices

RULE 2: Children's Programs

PBS and its member stations believe that children are a special audience with fewer critical skills and greater vulnerability with respect to televised messages. In addition, public television has a special place in the minds of the public with respect to children’s programming. Therefore, every effort must be made to avoid even the possibility that children are being exploited by public television programs*, including the underwriting credits.

These special rules are intended to provide guidance on underwriting credits that are directed to children and that involve brands and products that may be especially appealing to young viewers (such as foods, beverages and toys). These are the kinds of credits that will most often raise concerns about the commercial exploitation of young viewers.

These rules are not meant to prohibit conventional underwriting credits on children’s programs where the message is clearly targeted to an adult audience and the product or service is of little interest to the young viewer. Each case will be evaluated on its individual merits.

PBS is committed to providing a safe haven for children, free from the influence of commercial messages. With regard to food and beverage funders, PBS is committed to fostering the health, well-being and nutritional values of children. With this in mind, in keeping with the advice of its nutrition experts, PBS will apply a higher standard in the review of funding from food and beverage companies/brands.

Underwriting credits designed and intended to be appealing to audiences under twelve (12) years of age must comply with the following rules. These rules may also apply to special versions of children’s programs distributed by PBS in other dayparts.  These rules for children’s programs apply to underwriting credits on all distribution platforms.

  • As in all cases, the credit must identify the underwriter in the manner described in RULE 1(A) above. The credit may also include a brief, generic, value-neutral description of the underwriter’s product or service.
  • The credit may use the underwriter’s logo in video, and may also for further identification include a brief depiction of the underwriter’s mascot or spokescharacter to accompany the funder name or logo (subject to RULE 1 sensitivities concerning placement, size, and other factors). To avoid encouraging children to use or consume an underwriter’s products, product depictions are not allowed; further, an underwriter’s name or logo may not be shown on a product package.
  • The remainder of the underwriting credit should be either (1) a message of support for PBS and public television, or (2) a message that promotes learning and education. Examples:
    • “Microsoft Home supports The Magic School Bus and other programs that further learning, exploration and discovery.”
    • “Exercise your head. Read! Ghostwriter is brought to you in part by Nike.”
    • “Reading Rainbow is made possible in part by a grant from Kellogg’s, who reminds you to take time each day for reading.”

Funder messages that are unrelated to PBS, public television or program content are strongly discouraged and are unlikely to be accepted.**

*To this end, Internet website addresses may only be displayed during or adjacent to children's programming provided that the page to which viewers are directed contains no links to commercial material, as required by the FCC website address rule.

**More recent sample credits are available by request from Program Underwriting Policy.