The PTC and many other members of the public filed comments urging the FCC to reform the TV Content Ratings System and its oversight.
Here are a few notable remarks from the Public Comments filed (in FCC Docket No. 19-41):
U.S. Senator James Lankford (R-OK): “More than 20 years ago, the TV Parental Guidelines were implemented to give parents a better idea of the content and age-appropriateness of television programming. Without question in the past 20 years, a higher tolerance has grown for programming that contains violence, sexual content, and suggestive language. Given the shift, the FCC should review the TV parental guidelines, so that parents and families can adequately evaluate television content based on an accurate rating system that is driven by content creators in a responsible manner.”
Penny Nance, CEO & president of Concerned Women for America: “Graphic sexual scenes, adult topics, violence, and profanity are routinely rated as appropriate for children. TV-14 and TV-PG ratings are routinely abused to peddle violent, lewd, and salacious content, to the horror of parents who are helpless once their children are exposed to the material without proper warning. This is, of course, an ideal business model which gives advertisers a much larger audience, but it is most certainly not in the best interest of families.”
Brent Bozell, founder of the Parents Television Council, and president of the Media Research Center: “When the rating system was first adopted, many, including me, predicted that the result would be worse content on TV. And that is in fact what we got. As soon as we got the TV ratings what we also got, almost immediately, was more graphic violence, more explicit sexual content, and more profanity during the hours of prime time when children are in the viewing audience. TV ratings have done nothing to protect families from harmful media content, all they have done is provide cover for the networks. However well-intentioned, when the system was created they left the fox in charge of the henhouse. The TV networks are answerable to nobody but themselves. It was a system designed to fail.”
Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood: “Families deserve a ratings board that features independent experts on child development and media effects and not just industry representatives. They need ratings that are easy-to-understand and give them the specific information they need to decide whether a program is appropriate for their children to watch. And they need ratings that are consistent with other media so that parenting in a digital age doesn’t require mastering several different ratings systems.”
Focus on the Family: “To say that this is a self-serving system would be a generous assessment, as it’s a system that arguably incentivizes content creators to provide as lenient a rating as possible.”
Tim Winter, president of the Parents Television Council: “With so much explicit content within a child’s reach, families urgently need a television content ratings system they can rely upon. In order for the industry’s prophylactic remedy of choice, the V-chip, to be of any value to parents, television programming must carry a content rating that is accurate, consistent, transparent and publicly accountable. There is growing evidence suggesting that the existing television content ratings system is none of these four things, and it is failing parents.” (Full comments here.)
Melissa Henson, program director of the Parents Television Council: “I have learned to discount the ratings entirely when viewing with my family because I’ve learned that they seldom provide a thorough or accurate appraisal of the content. Most episodes of ABC’s ‘The Muppets,’ for example, included drug and alcohol references as well as sexual innuendo or anatomical references – none of which would have been acceptable, in my view, for my child to watch – but none of those elements seemed to have factored into ABC’s decision to rate episodes TV-PG. The ratings system has been used and manipulated by content creators and distributors. It was meant to help families, but families are not being served by system as it exists today.”
Research, video clips of misrated TV content, and other background about the TV Content Ratings System can be found here: www.ParentsTV.org/Ratings.