The Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood is urging the Federal Communications Commission to block Nickelodeon’s plan to launch an animated adventure program called "Zevo-3" based on characters used in Skechers shoe ads, contending the show amounts to a program-length ad.
"It's clear that Skechers and Nicktoons are flouting the policies established by Congress to protect children from excessive commercialism," said CCFC's Director Susan Linn in a statement. The group filed an 18-page petition with the FCC, urging the agency to act.
The group is calling the program -- due to launch Oct. 11 -- an escalation in its battle with overcommercialization of children’s programming. While toys have shown up as characters in children’s shows, the group complains that the program is the first in which advertising characters would be used as characters.
"Zevo-3" features three children turned into superheroes -- Kewl Breeze (pictured), Elastika and Z-Strap -- whose only existence to date has been in television commercials and marketing materials including comic books intended to promote Skechers shoes to children, the group says.
“It is something new. An escalation,” Josh Golin, a CCFC spokesperson told TheWrap.
The Children’s Television Act and FCC rules say that children’s programming on cable can only contain 10.5 minutes of ads per hour on weekdays or 12 minutes per hour on weekends. The group is contending to the FCC that because the characters have been used for advertising, the whole program should be considered an ad and disallowed.
David Bittler, a Nickelodeon spokesman, rejected the group's contention that the program is an ad.
"This show does not violate the Children's Television Act. We obviously wouldn't air it if it did," he told TheWrap.
Kristen Van Cott, SVP of creative development for Skechers Entertainment and co-executive producer of Zevo-3, also disputed the group’s characterization of the show. “Skechers Entertainment is very proud of our show, Zevo-3. We feel that it extols positive values of self-reliance, friendship, teamwork, and problem-solving,” she said. “While we commend the goals of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood to watch over the airwaves, we feel that 'Zevo-3,' which combines great action-packed entertainment with strong and positive characters who deal with issues that kids confront on a regular basis -- from peer pressure to family relationships -- will bring great entertainment into homes across the country.”