A study in Pediatrics magazine found that less than half of surveyed parents felt that the age-based content ratings assigned to television shows were accurate. At the same time, experts noted that there was no particular reason to think that parents were clamoring for any changes. So it should come as no surprise that Parents Television Council immediately said the FCC should modify the V-Chip rules based on the studies.
The article was based on three online surveys conducted a few years ago that queried 2.3K parents. According to Reuters, between 41% and 46% of parents believe that TV ratings are usually accurate; only 5% think they are always accurate.
One observer said the fact that the surveys were online undermined the results from the get-go, since they tend to draw participants who were attracted to the survey in the first place because they have an axe to grind.
Another said that a good interpretation of the results was not that parents want a new ratings system – it just revealed that they trust their own judgment rather than that of an anonymous content rater, and would rather have information with which to make their own call.
Texas A&M professor Christopher J. Ferguson said he conducted his own study in which he asked participants to rate the violence in programming, and said in that case, the ratings of the parents and the networks were pretty much the same.
But despite the academic criticism of the study, PTC saw it as a call to action. “These three studies affirm everything we have said about the flaws in the various ratings systems,” said PTC’s Tim Winter. “The current television ratings system is not only inadequate but biased. Right now, even if the V-Chip and other blocking technologies are properly programmed they can still only be as effective as the ratings they depend on – ratings that are assigned by the networks themselves. If the ratings are incomplete or inaccurate, parents have no sure way of knowing what content may be seen by their children.”
RBR-TVBR observation: There is no way on this planet that something as fluid and amorphous as creative content can be jammed in a little box with a suggested age limit tagged to it. No two parents are likely to agree on what is and isn’t appropriate for a child. Parents need effective tools, not a PTC plan to turn the FCC into the national nanny.
Ratings are a guideline. That’s all they ever can be. We know that just about any kid can safely watch certain programs. However, if a TV-14 rating is tagged to a program, we are given the option to base our decision on letting a child watch it on the rating, or to exercise our own judgment. Either way, we are alerted to the fact that there is potentially objectionable content. That’s all we can and should expect.
Parents can get the information by actually watching programs with their children, and they can find extensive content ratings from both PTC and another children’s programming watchdog, Common Sense.