Educational TV: Webs tout new code system

NEW YORK — With the new content-ratings system officially taking effect on Wednesday, the networks are allotting valuable promo time to make sure viewers understand the new labels slapped on their shows.

ABC was first out of the gate, beginning a series of 10- and 20-second promos last weekend; CBS weighs in this weekend with its own spots featuring Harry Anderson (“Dave’s World”), and NBC, along with a handful of cable networks, also is airing similar messages.

Ring in the new year

In promos for all series scheduled for Wednesday (New Year’s Day) or later, most major networks last week began using graphics showing an episode’s content rating.

The broader instructional messages are based on the notion that, despite public debate concerning the ratings system, many viewers are unfamiliar with its particulars.

ABC’s effort typifies the mix of high-minded, family-friendly appeal the networks are striving for. After lengthy and controversial debate, they are launching the system, which assigns ratings from TV-G (suitable for general audiences) to TV-M (mature audiences) for most entertainment shows. News and sports programming are ex-empted from the ratings system.

Behind clips of assorted ABC entertainment fare, a narrator reminds viewers, “This week, your children will watch over 20 hours of television. That’s why we’ve adopted the TV parental guidelines, a simple and effective ratings system to help you choose appropriate shows for your family. Because of all the important things you have to be concerned about in this world, television shouldn’t be one of them.”

The spot offers a toll-free number to call to order a pamphlet outlining the new system. As with other nets, ABC’s general promos will air at least twice a day in primetime until mid-January or later, while episodic promos will carry the rating information permanently.

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