Misplaced veto

PRESIDENT REAGAN has killed a bill that would have limited the commercial content of television programs for children. He saw an affront to the First Amendment that the 378 members of Congress who voted for the measure somehow failed to perceive. Mr. Reagan's pocket veto stops, for now, an attempt to restore needed balance. Four years ago the Federal Communications Commission dropped longstanding rules regarding children's programming, and product-based TV shows started to dominate Saturday mornings.

Lawmakers wanted to set limits on the proportion of children's programming time allowed for pitching products. They also wanted the quality of children's shows to be weighed in renewing a station's license.

Explaining his veto, the President argued that the bill would ``inhibit broadcasters from offering innovative programs that do not fit neatly into regulatory categories.'' If what we've seen over the past four years is an example of ``innovative'' programming, a degree of inhibition may be needed. More likely, the bill would encourage broadcasters to meet the needs of children.

A few months back the FCC was bent on banning ``indecent'' programming from TV. That effort raised a First Amendment storm. An effort to limit the commercial exploitation of young viewers does not. Its backers should, and probably will, try again next year.

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