The Parents Television Council responded to Senator Chris Dodd’s letter addressing the issue of TV Content Ratings Reform. The PTC is committed to public awareness and transparency in its efforts, and is therefore sharing on-the-record communications with its members and with the public at large.
PTC President Tim Winter and Sen. Dodd, president of the Motion Picture Association of America and chairman of the TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board, met on June 6 to discuss the problems with the failing ratings system and ways to make improvements. Mr. Winter had urged him to “join me in calling for an open, public hearing to evaluate – through the lens of twenty years of its operation – the positive and negative aspects of the current system; and to provide a forum to evaluate ways to improve it.”
Sen. Dodd responded in writing but avoided any reference to an open, public hearing. The full text of his letter can be found here.
Mr. Winter responded in writing, and the following are excerpts from his response:
“Thank you for your letter dated yesterday, June 16th. I sincerely appreciate your reply and the additional information you provided. Thank you as well for the heads-up about the soon-to-be-released survey undertaken by the TVOMB. We eagerly await perusing the survey data so that we might understand how 96% of parents are satisfied with the accuracy of the TV ratings. Perhaps only 4% of parents are aware that the networks rate as child-appropriate TV content such as jokes about raping 9-year old girls; or jokes about a school principal sleeping with schoolboys; or nude little boys whose genitals are pixilated; or a woman committing suicide by shoving an icepick into her own eye socket; or a woman’s throat being slit so graphically that you see the knife pulled across her neck, with blood pouring such that she drowns in her own blood; or a male cheerleader lifting a female cheerleader into the air, then looking up her skirt and getting hit in the face with menstrual blood; or a reality dating show where, in each and every episode, all participants are nude with genital areas blurred; or the ubiquitous machine-gun slaughter. These examples are not just cherry-picking for PR purposes; rather they are reflective of programming that airs daily, yet is routinely rated as appropriate for children aged fourteen or even younger.
“I must respectfully correct your apparent misunderstanding about my appreciation for Network Standards & Practices employees. We actually agreed over breakfast that S&P staffers are earnest and hard-working; and I mentioned how I witnessed their dedicated efforts first-hand during my fifteen years at NBC and thereafter. I did not suggest that S&P representatives were self-serving. Rather, I suggested that the entire system itself is self-serving; a system where the networks rate their own programming; are financially motivated not to label content accurately; subsequently oversee the integrity of the system through a monitoring board they control, and that meets behind closed doors, and that conducts surveys that demonstrate a North Korean approval level for the system’s accuracy; and then publicly relies upon a disreputable and conflicted college psychology professor for political cover. The entire system, Senator Dodd, is self-serving. And it is a structure that I believe you would never endorse as a public servant. We should work together in a public forum to make it better.
“I do appreciate the updates that have been made to the TV Parental Guidelines website over the past 48 hours. Information that had been outdated for a number of years appears to be more current. And while that is an improvement, and yes, we’re all working for improvement, the updated information reveals the Monitoring Board’s composition still to be non-compliant with the FCC’s report and order that authorized it. Perhaps that is still a work-in-progress.
“Indeed I do agree with you that ‘our goals are united to effectively educate and help parents navigate television content for their children.’ Those words are the essence of the PTC’s very existence; and they are at the root of my request for you to join me in seeking a public hearing about how the existing TV content ratings system can be improved. Notwithstanding the omission of an answer to my request in your letter, my offer still stands and I hope you will reconsider. Thank you.”
For more information about the TV Content Ratings System, including the latest research, visit www.ParentsTV.org/RR. Twitter: #TVRatings #RatingsReform