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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