TV networks extend program ratings online


Julius GenachowskiParents who have come to rely on program ratings when monitoring the television watching of their children will now have the same capability when the child is streaming programming over the internet.

Participating in the initiative are ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, TeleFutura, Telemundo and Univision.
“Parents will now be able use the TV ratings system when children access broadcast television programs on the Internet,” the networks said in a joint statement. “The networks are making the ratings information available for all full-length entertainment programs that stream on the websites that they control.”

They continued, “Each company will determine its own systems, and the networks have committed that the TV ratings will appear at the beginning of full-length video programs and also in the online programming descriptions. Network websites will also include or link to ratings system information. This commitment is effective for rated programming televised beginning December 1, 2012.”

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, a founding member of children’s media watchdog Common Sense, expressed his approval of the initiative. “I applaud the networks’ commitment to empower parents,” he said. “With our rapidly changing media marketplace, it is vital parents have tools to help them make informed choices.”

The FCC noted statistics provided by a TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board survey which found that 70% of parents use TV ratings, and 61% of children watch programming on something other than a television set.

TV Watch Executive Director, Jim Dyke, also weighed in. He said, “For years, the content ratings have proven to be one of the most popular tools parents use to help make decisions about what their children watch on television. The most recent data shows that 68 percent of parents use the TV ratings system and 95 percent of the parents who use them often find the ratings helpful. Parents have overwhelmingly stated that they, not the government, are better at making decisions about what their children view on television. By taking this step today, these networks are giving parents an expanded set of tools to help determine what their children watch based on their own taste, style and age.”

RBR-TVBR observation: The more tools that are made available to parents to control children’s viewing, the better. The closer program regulation hews to the First Amendment, the more we like it. If parents can effectively keep young eyes away from material they would rather avoid, the argument to restrict broadcast speech loses much of its weight.