Markey calls for forum on TV ratings

WASHINGTON V-chip sire Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) began circulating a letter Wednesday urging his fellow members of Congress to demand the FCC hold hearings on the television industry’s proposed TV ratings system.

Although stations and webs have already begun tagging programs with age-based content code labels, the FCC must still pass judgment on the ratings plan. If the FCC decides the TV ratings do not meet Congressional intent as laid out in the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the agency can appoint an advisory board to create a ratings system of its own.

Motion Picture Assn. of America prexy Jack Valenti has said the industry will use the ratings system it has proposed or none at all.

The FCC currently has no plans to hold a hearing on the ratings system, although it will allow the public to comment on the industry ratings proposal, said agency spokesman David Fisk.

Biz system criticized

Markey is critical of the industry proposal, saying any ratings system should include specific information about the violent and sexual content of individual programs. He insists that the age-based, MPAA-like system does not provide enough information to parents. “The more general the ratings, the less information is given to parents seeking to manage their children’s viewing habits, and the less choice is given to parents about what to block using the V-chip when parents are not present to supervise,” states the letter.

The industry’s rating system is designed to work with the V-chip that will one day allow parents to block programming based on its content rating. V-chipped sets are not expected to reach stores until late 1998 at the earliest.

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