Programming the V-chip
Tv-Ratings System



TV 14


News Release - TV Set Requirements and Ratings

V-Chip Task Force Updates V-Chip Encoding Survey
FCC V-Chip Survey

V-Chip Task Force Commissioned

V-Chip Technical Requirements

V-chip Directory
Online Casinos
Audio Books
Technology Directory


(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 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 Board.

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) are:

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 dialogue (D).

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.