WASHINGTON – President Bill Clinton apparently knows more about the proposed TV ratings system than he led reporters to believe last week.
Clinton told reporters during a White House press conference Friday he had “not yet had a report” on the industry proposalWhat he did not say is that Vice President Al Gore and Motion Picture Assn. of America prexy Jack Valenti had discussed the issue in detail during a meeting Thursday, sources confirmed Monday.
Sources also confirmed Monday Gore discussed the proposed ratings system with Clinton prior to his press conference. Nonetheless, the President, in responding to a question Friday said, “All I know is what all of you have reported about it.”
Clinton went on to call for a 10-month TV code truce so the system could be tested in the marketplace.
Clinton’s position is seen by some as a severe blow to opponents of the proposed ratings system, including V-chip sire Rep. Ed Markey, (D-Mass.) who is calling on the FCC to reject it.
“The FCC should not accept this system,” said Markey during a weekend appearance on CNN’s “Late Edition with Frank Sesno.”
Markey also called for competition between the age-based system proposed by the TV industry and a content-based ratings system favored by kidvid advocates. The latter system would provide viewers with an indication of the amount of sex, violence and adult language in individual programs. Markey made similar statements on “Face the Nation.”
Valenti also took to the airwaves this weekend on ABC’s “This Week.” In a brief debate with Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va., and an original co-sponsor of V-Chip legislation), Valenti repeatedly pointed out that President Clinton had asked TV ratings critics to give the proposed code at least a 10-month trial.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) also jumped into the debate last week, calling on Markey and others to give the proposed system a chance.
“Clearly there are many ratings systems that could be devised. But … let us keep in mind that under any ratings system, parents must exercise their ultimate responsibility to guide their children, and not leave it to politicians,” Boxer said Friday.
Her statement marks a 180-degree turn. In a meeting with industry moguls in Washington last February, Boxer, along with fellow Californian Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca.), upbraided more than two dozen honchos including former Disney exec Michael Ovitz, Westinghouse CEO Michael Jordan and NBC CEO Bob Wright for failing to do more to curb violence on TV.
Several of the execs were taken aback by Boxer and Feinstein’s criticism, since they had traveled to Washington for a White House announcement that they would voluntarily implement a ratings system.
California execs were particularly put off, because they are frequently targets of senators’ fundraisers. One high-ranking industry source who was present at the meeting said some execs suggested after the meeting that they cancel their Democratic party affiliation.