The Hub, a new children’s TV network, isn’t due to launch until Sunday, but some are already raising concerns that much of the programming constitutes nothing more than product placement.
That’s because The Hub is the product of a partnership between Discovery Communications and Hasbro (Stock Quote: HAS), the maker of popular toys such as My Little Pony, the Transformers and G.I. Joe. As the new network will feature animated shows based on these and other Hasbro toy franchises, a few advocates have questioned whether the cartoons are actually thinly disguised advertisements for the company’s toys.
“Essentially the Hub is an intensification and aggregation of the growing problem of commercials masquerading as children’s programs,” says Dr. Susan Linn, co-founder and director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. The organization last month filed a complaint with the FCC about the Nicktoons show Zevo-3, alleging that the animated program was intended to sell Skechers shoes to kids, and Linn says the programming lineup of The Hub carries similar concerns.
“Most programs for children are selling them things, and it makes them feel that they can’t really enjoy the show unless they have the toys,” she says. “From birth, children are immersed in a message that they’re incomplete without certain products.”Perhaps anticipating these objections, The Hub will carry only six minutes of commercials per hour between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. – well below the maximum of 12 minutes allowed by FCC regulations. The Hub will also refrain from advertising Hasbro products during the advertising breaks for programs based on those products, in accordance with the Children’s Television Act.