Q: Aren’t there supposed to be limits to how many commercials a TV show is allowed to have?
Answer: For the most part, no. Most hour-long shows these days average 40 to 45 minutes of content, with a subsequent 20 or 15 minutes of commercial time.
The one exception to that is children’s programming. The FCC’s Children’s Television Act of 1990 allows cable operators to transmit no more than 10.5 minutes of commercial material an hour during children’s programming — meaning programs aimed primarily at children 12 and younger — on weekends and no more than 12 minutes on weekdays.
In decades past, episodes of shows ran longer, particularly ones that had fewer different sponsors.
For instance, “Star Trek” episodes, which originally aired in the mid to late 1960s, averaged about 50 minutes each. In those cases, episodes are often trimmed by a few minutes for reruns to make room for more ads.
Q. I have an old book that contains some ration stamps from the 1940s. I know that sugar, gas and coffee were rationed in the U.S., but was anything else? Please jog my memory.
Answer: The first items to be rationed were tires in January 1942, because of the interruption of natural-rubber supplies. By November 1942, the following items were rationed: coffee, fuel oil, meat, sugar, gasoline, bicycles, passenger automobiles, typewriters, stoves, shoes and even firewood. In addition, lard, shortening and oils, cheese, butter, margarine, processed foods, fruits, dried fruits, canned milk, coal, jams and jellies were also rationed.
The Office of Price Administration, or OPA, was set up on Aug. 28, 1941, to help stabilize prices and rents at the outbreak of the war.
Many different levels of rationing went into effect. Some items, such as sugar, were distributed evenly based on the number of people in a household. Other items, such as gasoline or fuel oil, were rationed only to those who could justify a need.
Restaurant owners and other merchants were accorded more availability, but had to collect ration stamps to restock their supplies.
In exchange for used ration stamps, ration boards delivered certificates to restaurants and merchants to authorize the procurement of more products as they became available.
Civilians were issued one of several different types of gas cards in weekly allotments. To receive a gasoline ration card, a person had to certify a need for gas and ownership of no more than five tires.
Tires in excess of five per driver were to be given to the government because of the rubber shortage.
Books of ration stamps were issued for other commodities and were valid only for a set period, to forestall hoarding.
Rationing resulted in one serious side effect: The black market, in which people could buy rationed items on the sly but at higher prices.
Rationing in the United States ended on Nov. 23, 1945, with the exception of sugar, which was restored later.
The OPA was abolished in May 1947, and most of its functions went to newly created agencies.