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Canada content with U.S.-style rating system

WASHINGTON — A Canadian TV industry group gave a resounding endorsement Monday to the program ratings system now used in the U.S.

The Action Group on Violence on Television recommended adopting a system similar to the U.S. content code. The recommendation included a six-tier rating system that makes viewing recommendations based on a child’s age but conveys little specific information about the level of violence, sex or adult language in the show.

Focus on violence

*The recommendation may even fall short of the U.S. system because it emphasizes violence, but makes only sparse reference to sexual themes or adult language. Both the U.S. and the Canadian system are intended for use with the V-chip, which will allow parents to block reception of shows they consider too violent or risque. Every TV set sold in the U.S. will come equipped with a V-chip sometime in the next few years.

A joint statement released Monday by the Motion Picture Assn. of America, the National Assn. of Broadcasters and the National Cable Television Assn. stated: “The report issued by AGVT in Canada today is professionally done, covering all the issues _ (It’s a) system that combines age with content, which is precisely what our TV parental guidelines provide.”

Of course, others disagree. Kidvid advocate Rep. Ed Markey (R-Mass.) criticized both plans Monday. “It is very unfortunate that the broadcast industry in both Canada and the U.S. refuses to voluntarily separate out violence, sex and language in ways that would allow parents to make their own choices for their own children in their own living rooms,” said Markey.

The AGVT recommendation, which is subject to review by the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission, is a far cry from the original proposal considered in Canada. The first version assigned seven different grades to the violent and sexual content of each program.

Like the U.S. system, the Canadian industry proposes adopting a system that divides all entertainment programming, except sports, into six different age-based categories. Like news, sports will be exempt from the ratings system.

Minor differences

The U.S. and Canadian codes do have minor differences; the Canadian system has a category for programming that is appropriate only for kids over eight years of age, while the U.S system has a category that is appropriate for kids over seven.

The U.S. program guidelines are based on the categories used by the Motion Picture Assn. of America, and include designations such as TV-PG, while the Canadian system uses CTR-PA for the comparable category.

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