FCC approves TV ratings system for use with V-chips
WASHINGTON, D.C.–In mid-March, the Federal Communications Commission approved the controversial ratings system promoted by much of the television industry and ordered that television set manufacturers install the “V-chip” blocking device in half of all new television sets by July 1999. All sets would need the chip starting January 1, 2000.
The V-chip will allow parents or guardians to block programming that is rated under the system created last year by the National Association of Broadcasters, the National Cable Television Association, the Motion Picture Association of America and parental advocacy groups. The system rates programs by age group and by content, using an S for sexual content, L for profanity, V for excessive violence and D for sexually suggestive dialogue.
All major television networks currently use the rating system, except NBC, which uses only the age-group ratings, and Black Entertainment Television, which does not use any ratings.
In early October 1997, Sen. McCain (R-Ariz.) said he would ask the FCC to conduct hearings to determine whether networks that do not fully comply with the ratings system should lose their broadcast licenses.
FCC Commissioner Harold Furchtgott-Roth does not support compliance with the ratings system as a condition of retaining licenses, contending that once “the government becomes involved in pressuring distributors to take part in this program, the program ceases to be ‘voluntary’ in any real sense of the word,” he said in a press statement.
The V-chip, which may be available through a converter box to give existing television sets a blocking capacity as early as this summer, will also be required under the new rule in television tuners that are included in personal computers. (FCC Report Number GN 98-3)