For the first 15 seconds of every
rated program lasting a half-hour or less, a large rating icon
appears in the upper-left hand corner of the TV screen. For
every rated program running an hour or longer, a rating appears
in the upper-left hand corner of the TV screen at the beginning
of each half hour.
Starting in mid 2005, many networks display the icons after
every commercial break. ABC was one of the first television
networks to display the program's rating after every commercial
break in addition to at the beginning of the program.
Many networks have also introduced their own flair to the icons:
ABC's ratings icons do not use the regular Helvetica font,
instead going with a Bank Gothic typeface, with black type on a
white background, and are larger than the voluntary
specifications. However, normal Helvetica ratings icons are
shown on the network's HDTV feed and in promos.
CBS and The CW only show the icon at the start of the program,
and use the original smaller icons.
Fox networks ratings icons are colored blue with white type, use
a clockwise transition animation, and are larger than the
voluntary specifications, appearing at the start of any live
action program and, as of April 9, 2007, after every commercial
break (the complete 15 seconds of the icon is shown as close to
the half-hour as possible during an at least hour-long program;
5 seconds of the icon, without the clockwise transition, is
shown after every other commercial break). Black and white icons
are retained for animated programs on the network and the 4Kids
TV weekend children's block. The clockwise animation is in use
with these as well. In the late 1990s, when the ratings system
was first introduced, 4Kids TV predecessor Fox Kids aired brief
notices before a particular show containing the rating and
informing the viewer that it's there "so you can have Fox Kids
NBC's ratings icons are translucent, and have the yellow feather
in the NBC Peacock logo "click and feather in" the icon like a
mouse cursor clicking an icon to go with that network's current
image branding. NBC and their related cable networks did not use
the D-L-S-V subratings until 2005.  .
PBS' ratings icons vary by each program's producers, though
usually the default icons are used, with black Helvetica type on
a white background. PBS and the network's digital cable
networks/digital broadcast subchannels also opted out of the
D-L-S-V subratings until 2005.
Syndicated programming often will show ratings icons drastically
different from the original icons, in a different font (such as
Tahoma), with a translucent or no background, letters with drop
shadowing, or which match up with the title card or closing
credits font for the program. This owes to the fact that the
individual programs' production companies, not the broadcasting
stations, apply the ratings.
Both NBC and MyNetworkTV show the icon within the video area
instead of the normal placement on a 4:3 scale whenever
letterboxed programs are aired.
Turner Classic Movies uses the television ratings system to rate
films not covered by the MPAA's film ratings system, which went
into effect for films released after October 1968. As the
network or the film's distributor rates the film on the TV
ratings system instead of the MPAA's, some conflicts occur
between the two ratings systems, such as a film that might rate
a MPAA G earning a TV-PG, and some cases of a MPAA PG-like movie
earning a TV-14 rating on TCM. Some MPAA rated films may also
have a separate TV rating from TCM to clairfy content further
within the D-L-S-V subratings.
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The cable network TBS airs the ratings icons after each
commercial break, with a larger version of the icon at the top
of the program. The rating icons are black lettering on a
translucent white background.
Locally-produced programming may not show any kind of icon or
indicator for a rating, and it is extremely rare for public
access cable channels to have any ratings. News and sports
channels (such as CNN, CNBC, Fox News Channel, ESPN, and Fox
Sports Net), and broadcast news and sports shows have never used
the ratings system, as live and taped sports and news events are
excluded from having to be rated, though the commitments by the
networks to edit out any live profanity and obscenity does
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The ratings can be detected by a television set device known as
a V-chip. V-chips are built into all television receivers
manufactured since 2000. Older sets can be retrofitted with
external set-top boxes. However, the V-chips have to be
activated by the set's owner, and provide only a blanket
blocking for programs displaying the owner-selected primary
rating(s): subratings cannot usually be selected for exemption
from V-chip blockage (there are some television sets which can
block subratings, however). In order for the V-chip to detect
the rating, the rating code must be embedded into the TV signal
by the program's creator (in the same way closed captioning is
embedded in the signal). Shows that simply display a rating on
the screen but do not contain this embedded code will not
interact with the V-chip and not be prevented from showing
regardless of the displayed rating.
 Content Advisory System
In addition to the TV Parental Guidelines, there is a content
advisory system which preexists the implementation of the TV
Parental Guidelines. This content system was proposed in the
United States in 1994 by the cable television industry and went
into effect by early 1995 on most major pay cable networks (such
as HBO, Showtime, etc.) to identify if a program has explicit
sexual content, graphic violence and strong profanity.
Pay-per-view services began using the system in 1998.
Adult pay networks like Playboy TV and Spice Networks do not use
this system instead generally describing content in their films
and series as containing "nudity, people having sex and
The system consists of a code depicting the content described
alongside the code. This system is accompanied by one of the
V (Violence): for programs containing intense violence
MV (Mild Violence): for programs containing mild dramatic or
AC (Adult Content): for programs containing highly suggestive
AL (Adult Language): for programs containing coarse language
GL (Graphic Language): for programs containing intense foul
BN (Brief Nudity): for programs containing scenes of nudity
usually lasting two minutes or less
N (Nudity): for programs containing scenes of full-frontal
nudity shown for long durations
SSC (Strong Sexual Content): for programs that contain a few or
several scenes featuring sometimes graphic sexual acts
RP (Rape): for programs that contain intense depiction of rape
The later two subratings are more commonly used for R and TV-MA
rated programs. However, some PG-13 and TV-14 rated programs use
the SSC and RP subratings. The RP subrating is the least used
subrating in the system, while it is typical for the SSC
subrating to be used on adult programming.
Pay-cable networks display the icons during the ratings bumpers,
after the rating and special features (Stereo, Closed
Captioning, etc.) bumper card.
HBO and Cinemax's content advisory icons do not use the regular
Sans Serif font, instead going with a bold Trebuchet typeface,
with white type on a black circle background, and are smaller
than the voluntary specifications.
Showtime, The Movie Channel, Sundance Channel and Flix use the
larger default icons.
Starz and Encore's content advisory icons are colored blue with
white Arial Bold type, in a square background, and are slightly
smaller than the voluntary specifications.
Pay-per-view networks' content advisory icons are circular, and
are colored black with white outline with white Arial Bold type.
Despite formerly having been a premium channel,
never used the content advisory subratings and also does not
currently use the subratings that accompany the TV Parental
Guidelines. This is likely because of the Channel's
family-friendly nature as non-Original programming is usually
edited for adult content.
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