Ever wonder why commercial blocks during the Saturday morning cartoon (R.I.P.) timeslot had bumpers with weird animated creatures announcing that “After these messages, we’ll be right back?” Blame it on the FCC and the Action for Children’s Television (ACT) non-profit.
In 1970, ACT drafted several proposals for the FCC to improve the state of children’s programming. Along with increasing the educational value of TV shows and mandating that broadcast networks provide at least 14 hours of child-appropriate television per week, ACT also demanded the removal of all commercials.
Obviously, advertisers and broadcasters weren’t entirely on board. However, in 1974, the FCC conducted an inquiry into children’s programming and advertising and published the Children’s Television Report and Policy Statement (“1974 Policy Statement”) issuing their own set of standards. One of these was that television programming must be clearly separated from commercials because “children ‘cannot distinguish conceptually between programming and advertising’” [PDF].
The FCC didn’t regulate what the bumpers were, and the 1979 study “Program/Commercial Separators in Children’s Television Programming” published in the Journal of Communication noted “that the networks have no consensus among themselves regarding what constitutes a ‘clear separation’ technique.” The study also found that the separators added to the confusion, and children had an easier time recognizing commercial breaks without them.