INDUSTRY VIDEO PROGRAMMING
RATING SYSTEM ACCEPTABLE;
ADOPTS TECHNICAL REQUIREMENTS TO ENABLE BLOCKING OF VIDEO
PROGRAMMING (THE "V-CHIP")
(CS DOCKET NO. 97-55, CS DOCKET NO. 97-321, ET DOCKET 97-206)
The Commission today adopted an order finding acceptable the audio books
rating system currently in voluntary use and established technical requirements
for consumer electronic equipment to enable blocking of video programming. These
two actions will help provide parents with the information and ability to make
informed viewing decisions for their families.
These actions fulfill the requirements of Section 551 of the 1996
Telecommunications Act ("1996 Act") which required the Commission to determine
whether video programming distributors (1) have established acceptable voluntary
rules for rating video programming that contains sexual, violent or other
indecent material about which parents should be informed before it is displayed
to children and; (2) have agreed voluntarily to broadcast signals that contain
such ratings. Under Section 551, the Commission is also required to adopt rules
to require television receivers to block such programming that contains such
material by decoding rating information transmitted via line 21 of the vertical
blanking interval ("VBI").
The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the National Cable Television
Association (NCTA) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) (the
Industry) jointly created the TV Parental Guidelines. The TV Parental Guidelines
were subsequently revised on August 1, 1997, following discussions between the
Industry and certain advocacy groups that had expressed concerns about the
original Industry proposal. The Commission finds that the Industry's TV Parental
Guidelines establish acceptable voluntary rating rules and that the near
unanimous agreement to voluntarily broadcast signals containing the TV Parental
Guidelines complies with the requirements of Section 551(e). The Commission
makes no finding on the acceptability of other ratings systems, including the
Industry proposal as it existed prior to the August 1, 1997 modifications.
In a companion item the Commission adopted technical rules that require
television receivers with picture screens 33 centimeters (13 inches) or greater
to be equipped with features to block the display of television programming with
a common rating, commonly referred to as "v-chip" technology. The v-chip will be
phased in with half of television receiver models with picture screens 33 cm or
greater required to have the v-chip by July 1, 1999, and all such models
required to have the v-chip by January 1, 2000. Although the Commission chose to
approach the v-chip and ratings proceedings separately, the deliberations in
both proceedings have focused on Congress' goal of achieving an effective method
by which the rating system, when used in conjunction with the v-chip technology,
will provide parents with useful tools to block programming they believe harmful
to their children.
In Section 551 of the 1996 Act, Congress made extensive findings with respect to
the influence that television has on children and the need to provide parents
with useful tools to block programming they believe harmful to their children.
As a result of these findings, Congress called for the establishment of
guidelines and recommended procedures for rating certain television programming,
and the transmission of rating information for programs that are rated.
THE TV PARENTAL GUIDELINES
The TV Parental Guidelines are designed so that "category and program-specific
content indicators will provide parents with information that will help them
make informed decisions about what their children should watch on television."
The TV Parental Guidelines describe a voluntary rating system consisting of six
descriptive labels designed to indicate the appropriateness of television
programming to children according to age and/or maturity; content indicators
concerning sexual situations, violence, language or dialogue; agreement to
transmit on Line 21 of the vertical blanking interval; display of on-screen
rating icons and indicators; and the establishment of an Oversight Monitoring
The TV Parental Guidelines will apply to all television programming except for
news, sports, and unedited MPAA rated movies on premium cable channels. The TV
Parental Guidelines (labels and content indicators, and respective meanings)
For programs designed solely for children:
TV-Y (All Children -- This program is designed to be appropriate for all
children.) Whether animated or live-action, the themes and elements in this
program are specifically designed for a very young audience, including children
from ages 2-6. This program is not expected to frighten younger children.
TV-Y7 (Directed to Older Children -- This program is designed for children age 7
and above.) It may be more appropriate for children who have acquired the
developmental skills needed to distinguish between make-believe and reality.
Themes and elements in this program may include mild fantasy or comedic violence,
or may frighten children under the age of 7. Therefore, parents may wish to
consider the suitability of this program for their very young children. Note:
For those programs where fantasy violence may be more intense or more combative
than other programs in this category, such programs will be designated TV-Y7-FV.
For programs designed for the entire audience, the general categories are:
TV-G (General Audience -- Most parents would find this program suitable for all
ages.) Although this rating does not signify a program designed specifically for
children, most parents may let younger children watch this program unattended.
It contains little or no violence, no strong language and little or no sexual
dialogue or situations.
TV-PG (Parental Guidance Suggested -- This program contains material that
parents may find unsuitable for younger children.) Many parents may want to
watch it with their younger children. The theme itself may call for parental
guidance and/or the program contains one or more of the following: moderate
violence (V), some sexual situations (S), infrequent coarse language (L), or
some suggestive dialogue (D).
TV-14 (Parents Strongly Cautioned -- This program contains some material that
many parents would find unsuitable for children under 14 years of age.) Parents
are strongly urged to exercise greater care in monitoring this program and are
cautioned against letting children under the age of 14 watch unattended. This
program contains one or more of the following: intense violence (V), intense
sexual situations (S), strong coarse language (L), or intensely suggestive
TV-MA (Mature Audience Only -- This program is specifically designed to be
viewed by adults and therefore may be unsuitable for children under 17.) This
program contains one or more of the following: graphic violence (V), explicit
sexual activity (S), or crude indecent language (L).
The rating icons and associated content symbols will appear for 15 seconds at
the beginning of all rated programming. Under the TV Parental Guidelines, the
rating guidelines will typically be applied to television programs by broadcast
and cable networks and producers, while television stations retain the right to
substitute the rating they deem appropriate for their audience. Participants
agree to transmit program rating information on Line 21 of the Vertical Blanking
Iinterval. The Industry notes that cable networks and television stations will
provide rating information to newspapers and publishers of printed and
electronic program guides, and will request that these publishers include the
appropriate information in their guides.
The TV Parental Guidelines will work with the v-chip technology to permit
parents to block programming with a certain rating from coming into their home.
The v-chip, which will be installed in television sets, or available through
set-top boxes, will read information encoded in the program and block based on
the overall age category, by the S, L, V, or D rating assigned to the program,
or by a combination of the two.
The Industry has established an Oversight Monitoring Board to ensure that the
rating guidelines are applied accurately and consistently to television
programming. The Board will have a chairman, and 23 members of the Board,
including 6 members each from the broadcast television industry, the cable
industry, and the program production community, and 5 non-industry members
selected by the Chairman from the advocacy community, for a total of 24 members.
The Oversight Monitoring Board will provide information to producers and other
program distributors concerning the TV Parental Guidelines, as well as address
complaints and requests from the public about the TV Parental Guidelines and
their implementation. The Oversight Monitoring Board will explore attitudes
about the TV Parental Guidelines and the way in which they are being applied to
programming, conduct focus groups and commission quantitative studies to
determine whether the TV Parental Guidelines are providing useful information to
parents, and consider any needed changes to them. The Industry has also
committed to independent, scientific research and evaluation of the rating
system once the v-chip is in place.
In order to accommodate the design cycle and provide a smooth transition for
product introduction, the Commission is requiring that manufacturers include
v-chip technology on at least half of their product models with a picture screen
33 cm (13 inches) or greater in size by July 1, 1999, and the remaining half of
such models by January 1, 2000. This implementation schedule is desirable to
ensure that televisions with fully functional v-chip technology are available as
soon as possible.
The Commission is requiring that personal computers that include a television
tuner and an appropriately sized monitor must also include v-chip technology.
However, the order makes it clear that this requirement applies only to
broadcast transmissions and does not apply to video transmissions delivered over
the Internet or via computer networks.
The rules require that the v-chip technology contained in covered television
receivers responds to the TV Parental Guidelines and the MPAA rating system.
Televisions are not required to accommodate other rating systems. However, the
Commission..we encourages manufacturers to design television receivers to
provide for additional rating systems to the extent practical.
Action by the Commission March 12, 1998, by Reports and Orders (FCC 98-35, FCC
98-36), Chairman Kennard, Commissioners Ness, Furchtgott-Roth, Powell and
Tristani, with Chairman Kennard, and Commissioners Furchtgott-Roth and Tristani
issuing separate statements.