Clinton urges open mind on TV proposal

WASHINGTON – President Clinton gave a huge boost to the TV industry’s proposed content-ratings system Friday, urging critics to give the code a chance to survive in the marketplace.

“This must be an industry-based thing; the government should not be involved in this,” Clinton said, referring to the proposed system. “What I think ought to happen is that all the parents in the country ought to look at these ratings … check the shows against the ratings and then if they’re inadequate or there needs to be some more content in the ratings systems … then after a 10-month period we’ll be able to make that argument.”

‘We are confident’

MPAA prexy Jack Valenti, who has been leading the effort to create a TV code, said earlier last week that the industry plans to revisit the ratings system in 10 months.

“The President’s statement is all that we want anyone to say,” said Valenti Friday. “We are confident that once they come to know and understand the TV Parental Guidelines, America’s parents will find it to be a valuable tool in guiding the television viewing of their young children.”

Broadcasters and others involved in the proposed system greeted the President’s statement as an endorsement of their efforts. “We are pleased they believed this should be a voluntary industry effort without government intervention and that he supports giving the system a full chance in the marketplace,” said National Assn. of Broadcasters spokesman Dennis Wharton.

President Clinton’s comments came one day after Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) blasted the industry proposal, which he said fell far short of his goal of providing specific information about the level of sex, violence and adult language in each TV program.

Markey said Friday that he would not be deterred by the President’s statement, noting that President Clinton said that he had not yet been briefed on the issue. “It is critical that America’s parents give (the President) their views. There is nothing wrong with a trial, but we should not spend 10 months trying out a system that child psychologists, pediatricians, religious leaders and educators agree is seriously flawed,” Markey said.

Holding judgment

FCC chairman Reed Hundt said last week he was disappointed that the ratings system was not getting positive reviews, but he also said he would reserve judgment on the industry plan. “This is a case where I haven’t seen the movie and I haven’t even seen the preview. I’m glad that they’ve volunteered something,” Hundt said.

The TV code will be officially unveiled Thursday, but it has been widely reported to be an age-based system that uses categories ranging from TV-K for programs approved for all audiences to TV-M, which will indicate a show is intended for mature audiences only.

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