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FCC's V-Chip Survey: Top TV and Cable Networks Encoding TV Ratings Information; Programming Like "South Park" and "Jerry Springer" Lagging Behind

FCC Commissioner Gloria Tristani today released a survey showing that all of the major broadcast networks, as well as most of the top 40 basic cable networks, are currently transmitting ratings that can be received by V-Chip equipped TV sets.  ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and UPN are now transmitting encoded ratings information, while PaxNet, PBS, Univision, Telemundo and WB plan to begin encoding over the next 60 days to one year. 

All of the top 40 basic cable networks are encoding, or plan to encode, except BET, QVC and the Home Shopping Network.  The Food Network and Comedy Central, which carries "South Park," expect to start encoding in the next three months and one year, respectively. Thirteen channels including CNN, ESPN and Court TV are exempt as news or sports programmers.  The TV Guide channels do not carry full-length programming and so do not rate their product.

Of the top five premium cable networks, three are already encoding their programming.  The remaining two, Encore and Starz!, plan to begin encoding by January 2000.

Paramount, which distributes shows like "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine," is the only syndicator of the top 25 syndicated programs currently encoding all of its programming.  Studios USA, which distributes "The Jerry Springer Show" and "Xena: Warrior Princess," will encode most of its programming by the end of the week.  New episodes of "Jerry Springer," however, will not be encoded until the studio receives additional equipment.  All major syndicators have plans to encode their programming by the end of the year.

Commissioner Tristani, Chair of the FCC's V-Chip Task Force, said, "I think these are encouraging and significant findings.  Encoding is vital to the success of the V-Chip and the TV ratings system. The great majority of broadcasters and cable networks are encoding.  But we still have work to do."  Commissioner Tristani was joined by Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND), and Representatives Dan Burton (R-IN), Ed Markey (D-MA) and John Spratt (D-SC).
Broadcast and cable networks voluntarily committed to rate their programming through a rating system jointly created by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the National Cable Television Association (NCTA) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). The FCC adopted rules requiring all TV sets to be equipped with V-Chip technology capable of blocking programming parents believe is inappropriate for their children.  In order for V-Chip equipped sets to block programming, the ratings information must be encoded and transmitted on line 21 of the Vertical Blanking Interval ("VBI") of the television signal.


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