There will be fewer commercials on children's television shows under a new law that President Bush said he does not especially like but nonetheless declined to block.
Bush said Wednesday he wholeheartedly backs the goals of the "Children's Television Act of 1990," but that he objects to provisions that he believes infringe on First Amendment rights of free speech.Thus, he said, he would not sign the bill but neither would he veto it, allowing it to become law today without his signature.
The new rules will limit commercials on children's television shows to 10 1/2 minutes for each hour of children's programming on weekends, and 12 minutes an hour on weekdays.
Congressional critics said some stations allow 13 minutes to 17 minutes of ads per hour of children's programming.
The president said he had constitutional questions about the bill's requirement that stations provide educational programming as well as the limits on commercials.
"This bill is intended to increase the amount and quality of children's television programming and to diminish the commercialization of programming for children," he said in a statement.
But while lauding the intent, he said he regretted that Congress "has chosen inappropriate means" of attaining admirable goals.
A children's advocacy group criticized Bush's refusal to sign the bill. Peggy Charren, president of Action for Children's Television, noted his previous pledges to boost American education.
"One would have thought that the `education president' would embrace a measure that gives the TV industry an incentive to become a partner in the education of this nation's young people," Charren said from her organization's Cambridge, Mass., headquarters.
Bush said he particularly disliked applying commercial restrictions to cable stations, which he views as "analagous to the print media under the First Amendment."
Another section requires that applicants for TV station licenses provide educational programming specifically designed for children.
The Justice Department had recommended that the president veto any bill containing that provision as an unconstitutional intrusion into program content.