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Three bills would mandate content-based TV ratings

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Three bills would mandate content-based TV ratings 03/24/97 WASHINGTON, D.C.--In response to criticism of the voluntary, age- based system for…

Three bills would mandate content-based TV ratings

03/24/97

WASHINGTON, D.C.–In response to criticism of the voluntary, age- based system for rating television programming implemented by the broadcasting industry in early January, federal legislators introduced bills in early March that would require the industry to rate programs according to their content.

Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.) proposed legislation which would require broadcasters either to use a ratings system that focuses on the content of the program rather than the age of the child, or to channel all violent programming to a “safe harbor” time when children are less likely to be in the audience. Hollings’ bill, known as the “Children’s Protection for Violent Programming Act,” forbids the airing of any “violent” programming that cannot be blocked by “electronic means.” News, sports, premium and pay-per-view cable will be exempted from the provisions. The FCC would define the “safe harbor” hours and what constitutes violent programming.

Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) introduced a similar bill in the House of Representatives.

In a late February hearing on the current television ratings system, Hollings said that his bill was necessary since other attempts to curb violence on television have failed.

Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) proposed a bill that would also limit the violence shown on television, but with some added requirements. The “Family Television Viewing Information and Empowerment Act” would mandate that in order for stations to receive a license, they would have to show proof that they are rating television programs based on language, sexual and violent content in the programming. These rating characteristics would have to conform to “automatic blocking” technology, such as the V-chip, if and when such technology exists. (S. 363; S. 409; H.R. 910)