FCC releases Child Safe Viewing report


The report was mandated by the Child Safe Viewing Act, which gave the FCC two years to put it together. Its main focus is to empower parents to control the media consumption of their children, and it looks at video, internet, mobile and other delivery systems. The FCC concluded that there are a lot of solutions out there already, but that none are universally applicable to different media. And parental awareness is spotty.

The V-chip is the only tool available for over-the-air television, and is a case in point for the problems with current technology. It is dependent on ratings to work, and they are a subjective measure. That’s a problem because one person’s romantic interlude may be another person’s inappropriate sexual content.

The even bigger problem is that of parental awareness. Different polls show different levels, according
to the FCC, but none approach 100%. And the Kaiser Family Foundation found in 2004 that only 15% of parents had ever tried to use it. Other studies indicate confusion using the V-chip. Various proposals have been put forth to increase understanding and awareness, and to improve the ratings system. It is also proposed that advertising be rated just as other programming is. Another suggestion is “white-listing,” enabling parents to affirmatively select educational and information programming.

MVPDs of course can offer more options, including channel blocking technologies and family-friendly programming tiers (although these have been criticized since they are often forced to leave off popular channels that occasionally cater to mature audiences).

The study looked at many other things, like video games, recording devices, wireless, non-networked devices and the internet.

In the end, the FCC said it still needs more date.

Chairman Julius Genachowski stated that the need to encourage new options for parents goes hand in hand with encouraging new and improved communications devices. “We recognize that technology has created profound new challenges for parents by vastly expanding the scope and quantity of media available to our children.  But technology also can—and must—be part of the solution.  Parents must have access to control technologies that can appropriately limit their children’s exposure to unsuitable material.”

RBR/TVBR observation: As parents, we do not want the FCC or any part of the government getting involved in program content any more than is absolutely necessary. We therefore support the best parental control measures that ingenious American inventors are capable of devising. The more parental control, the safer the First Amendment is how we see it.