The FCC is seeking public comment on a petition filed last week by the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood seeking to block the cartoon series "Zevo-3," which premieres on the cable network Nicktoons on Oct. 11. It stars three superheroes from comic books and TV commercials promoting Skechers.
The Boston-based group says the program would violate a requirement in federal law that cable companies air no more than 12 minutes of commercial material per hour of children's programming, and FCC rules mandating a separation between commercial content and programming.
In its petition, the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood argued that the cartoon should be considered an advertisement for Skechers footwear because its three superheroes - Kewl Breeze, Elastika, and Z-Strap, who battle the evil Dr. Stankfoot.- promote specific lines of shoes.
"For children, the characters . embody the shoe lines they represent, so much so that retailers report that kids often refer to the shoes by character name rather than by the shoe model," the petition says.
Josh Golin, associate director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, welcomed the FCC inquiry.
"This would be the first children's television program based on advertising icons and as such, the entire program would be an ad," he said, noting that the cartoon could "open the floodgate for shows starring Ronald McDonald, Tony the Tiger and all the other advertising characters."
Nicktoons, owned by Viacom Inc., said in a statement that it does not believe "Zevo-3" is a program-length commercial or that it would violate advertising rules.
Skechers had no immediate comment Wednesday. The company said last week that it is "tremendously proud of 'Zevo-3,"' and described the cartoon as "a fun, action-packed and beautifully animated series."