The Parents Television Council lauded the news that the FCC is required to review the TV content ratings system and report on the effectiveness of the system within 90 days, per the Appropriations Bill of 2019.
Specifically, the Conference Committee Report says: Oversight Monitoring and Rating System.-In lieu of Senate report language on oversight monitoring and rating system, the FCC is directed to report to the Committees on Appropriations of the House and Senate within 90 days of enactment of this Act on the extent to which the rating system matches the video content that is being shown and the ability of the TV Parental Guidelines Oversight Monitoring Board to address public concerns. (Source: https://docs.house.gov/billsthisweek/20190121/116-hr648-ExplanatoryStatementDivC.pdf - pg. 25)
“Finally, after more than 20 years, Congress is addressing the needs of families and the welfare of children by formally calling for the first-ever regulatory review of the TV Content Ratings System and its ostensible oversight. We are elated that this important legislative wording was adopted as part of the appropriations bill that funds the federal government for this fiscal year,” said PTC President Tim Winter.
“The overwhelming weight of scientific, psychological, and medical research has found that exposure to graphic violence and explicit sex can be harmful to children. For decades, the entertainment industry has blamed parents when children consume explicit and age-inappropriate content by pointing to the ratings system and the v-chip; yet PTC research has routinely demonstrated the content ratings system is inaccurate, inconsistent and lacking transparency. Additionally, the process by which the ratings are applied is secretive, those who administer them are accountable to nobody, and parents have no real recourse when they are misapplied.
“We have called on the governing body for TV content ratings – the TV Parental Guidelines Oversight Monitoring Board (TVOMB) – to improve the TV ratings system, but our calls have fallen on the very same deaf ears that control the system and game it to their advantage. TVOMB is primarily comprised of the very same television network executives who assign the ratings to begin with. And keep in mind that a younger, even if inaccurate, age rating financially benefits each network, as many corporate advertisers won’t sponsor TV programming rated higher than TV-14.
“When the system’s oversight is administered entirely by the same people who assign inaccurate content ratings to begin with, and when there is an inherent financial conflict of interest to rate content as mature, it is impossible for the system to protect children as it was intended. The TV content ratings system needs to be overhauled so it truly serves the needs of parents and families, and not to provide cover for an industry that is airing ever-more-explicit content at times of the day when children are likely to be watching.”
Last week, the PTC delivered a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai urging him to conduct a review of the 1998 Report and Order establishing the V-chip, TV content ratings system, and the Parental Guidelines Oversight Monitoring Board in light of the Department of Education’s Safe Schools Commission report issued in December 2018 that cites content ratings as one issue to explore for the prevention of future violence.
PTC research has consistently found that TV content ratings are inaccurate and inconsistent:
- In March 2018, the PTC found that all gun violence on primetime broadcast television was rated as appropriate for children as young as fourteen, and in some cases, even younger.
- In September 2018, the PTC’s “Lewd by Example” Study found that on ABC, 80% of the network’s “family comedies” containing sex talk in front of kids were rated TV-PG, and over half of them (60%) lacked the “D” descriptor designating sexual dialogue.
- In an April 2016 study analyzing the 20 years of the TV content ratings system, the PTC found that the amount and intensity of adult content on TV-PG shows is increasing, yet the TV-PG rating does not reflect these changes. Consequently, children are exposed to more adult content, even when parents choose TV-PG rated programs.
“We hope that the FCC’s review will improve the TV content ratings system to the benefit of families and children. It is past time for this system to be reviewed, and improved,” Winter added.