Makeover for TV ratings, V-Chip may be in the works


A number of television watchdogs have long argued that television programmers do not do a very good job of rating their own content, allowing material they find unacceptable to slide past the watchdog services of the V-Chip. The FCC is said to be looking into an update involving both elements in the battle to protect children from inappropriate content.

According to a report at, ideas are being floated that would change the way the process works, and it all could be handled under an FCC proceeding that is already among those pending, an FCC review of parental content control options mandated by the 2008 Child Safe Viewing Act.

One proposal being floated is to recognize the many groups that produce program ratings – the article mentions religious watchdog Focus on the Family and children’s media advocacy Common Sense – and allow them to make their own ratings available to parents as an alternative to those provided now only by the programmers.

To make this possible, the V-Chip would be updated to accommodate the new options offered to parents.
It is suggested that such a program could find support on both sides of the aisle. It would figure to have support from most conservative Republicans, and at the very least, would find a very friendly reception in the office of Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV).

According to the report, key industries have already received feelers on the topic from the FCC, a fact confirmed by the NAB’s Dennis Wharton. MPAA, NCTA and various watchdogs are all said to be in the loop.

RBR-TVBR observation: We have long contended that we do not wish to have the program reviewers in the employ of any content watchdog, whether they are easily offended or not, deciding what we will and will not be allowed to see on television. However, we have no problem at all with allowing them to produce content-blocking ratings that only affect those who opt in.

If somebody trusts a certain group to limit the program options available to children, whether that group is a religious watchdog, a children’s advocacy, the networks themselves or any other interested group, that would be fine with us, as long as the option to pick none of the above is offered as well.

That is what freedom is all about.