WASHINGTON — With just two weeks to go before the scheduled debut of the TV ratings system, television industry honchos have all but settled on a code that will be seen as a defeat for kidvid advocates who want the new TV labeling system to provide specific information about the violent and sexual content of individual TV shows.
Nonetheless, all four networks committed themselves Tuesday to carrying an age-based, MPAA-like rating system on their programming by Jan. 1, sources said.
The TV execs have even identified six different categories of ratings for TV programming to be used with the V-chip. Sources close to the private negotiations emphasize that the categories have not been formally approved and are subject to change by Dec. 19, when the new ratings system will be unveiled in Washington.
As of Tuesday, the industry execs are planning to break out a special category for very young children. The categories are as follows:
* K — programming appropriate for kids of all ages.
* K-7 — programming inappropriate for kids younger than 7.
The reasoning behind the K and K-7 categories is to draw a distinction between programs such as the “Power Rangers” and “Sesame Street.” Sources say Fox is concerned about the creation of a special K-7 category. Fox reps in Washington were unavailable for comment late Tuesday.
Other TV categories are as follows, according to industry sources:
* TV-G — programming appropriate for all audiences.
* TV-PG — programming that should be watched with parental guidance.
* TV-14 — programming that is inappropriate for children younger than 14.
* TV-M — programming for mature audiences.
Although there is general agreement on the categories themselves, industry sources say the descriptions of the categories remain vague and have not been nailed down. Despite widespread press leaks about details of the rating system, MPAA prexy Jack Valenti, who is leading the effort to rate the TV shows, insisted Tuesday that no final agreement had been reached.
“There is no tentative agreement. There are crucial segments of the industry, including broadcast networks, movie executives, cable networks, syndicates, writers and directors, which have not signed off on a plan,” Valenti said in a statement faxed to reporters Tuesday.
The disclaimer did not stop Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) from blasting the industry honchos for failing to include content descriptions in their plans for a TV labeling code. “The ‘V’ for violence has been reported missing. The industry is supposed to be developing a ratings system that allows parents to block shows because they contain violence that is harmful to children. It’s time the public joined in a search for the missing ‘V’ so we can restore it to the V-chip.”
Just two weeks ago, Markey trumpeted a National PTA survey that showed 80% of PTA members favored a content-based ratings code.
Valenti and others are trying to play their cards so close to the vest that they did not reveal the details of the rating system’s age categories during meetings with kidvid advocates Tuesday. The Center for Media Education’s Kathryn Montgomery said she felt misled by reports that the industry execs were so far down the road toward an age-based system. “That means they didn’t tell us the truth in the meeting,” Montgomery said.