Senate committee hears complaints, defense of TV ratings
WASHINGTON, D.C.–The creators of the new television ratings system defended the usefulness of their plan at a congressional subcommittee hearing in late January, while opponents called for more detailed ratings of the content of shows.
After receiving complaints that the new television ratings system was not capable of providing the necessary information for concerned parents, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee held a hearing to discuss the effectiveness of the new system.
Most opponents of the implemented system voiced concern that the ratings focused on the age of the child instead of the content of the program. Joan Dykstra, president of the National PTA, argued that the system should include icons which portray the level of violence, sexual depiction and nudity, and harsh language.
Lois Salisbury, president of the advocacy group Children Now, suggested the television industry follow examples of the HBO and Showtime cable channels in rating programs. She stated that their procedures, in effect for the last 12 years, have been helpful to parents, while the broadcast ratings system takes a step backwards.
Members of the commission that created the TV Parental Guidelines, including chairman Jack Valenti, argued that the industry had fulfilled the promises it made by voluntary creating a productive ratings guide which would mimic the 28-year-old movie ratings system, and establishing an Oversight Monitoring Board to evaluate and propose modifications to the system. Valenti, who is also president of the Motion Picture Association of America, noted that the industry had met with 68 groups to gather proposals for the system. He also stated that the current ratings system was devised to work with the “V-chip” technology that will allow parents to block out unwanted programming.
Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) commended Valenti and the industry for implementing the system. He said that since the system was less than three months old, it should be given a chance to prove itself before being modified.
Burns also stated that government interference was not necessary at this time, noting that President Clinton had said a new ratings system would be implemented by Congress if the voluntary system was not satisfactory to interested parties. The Telecommunications Act of 1996, which requires the FCC to implement the “V-chip” technology, also calls for a congressionally devised system if the voluntary plan is deemed insufficient.
“The prospect of a government board trying to dictate a ratings system to industry is something to be avoided at all costs,” Burns added.