Nets, syndies face uphill battle with rating combos

WASHINGTON — While nobody knows if parents will find the new and expanded TV program ratings code user-friendly, it’s becoming clear that with up to 45 separate possible permutations — consider PGMA (VDL), for example — it will certainly be difficult for networks and syndicators to implement.

While the major networks and leading syndicators are expected to meet the Oct. 1 deadline for implementing the new code, it will take much longer for the rest of the industry to catch up, said National Assn. of Broadcasters senior vice president Chuck Sherman.

In an address Wednesday to TV station programmers visiting Washington, Sherman said the NAB still hasn’t even figured out exactly how many categories the new code will include. They do know there are going to be a lot more than the six age-based categories now in use. Sherman told the visiting programmers that there will be at least 45 separate categories and there could be as many as 135.

Under an agreement reached with kidvid groups earlier this month, broadcasters have agreed to add S (Sex), V (Violence), L (Adult Language), D (Risqué Dialogue) and FV (Fantasy Violence) symbols to the current code which is modeled on the age-based MPAA system.

For instance, a show that is currently rated TVPG can have at least 10 possible ratings combinations including: TVPG (V) or TVPG (VD) or TVPG (LSD). The FV symbol is targeted at kids shows rated TV-Y or TV-Y7.

Although the television industry agreed to revamp its ratings three weeks ago, it still hasn’t managed to make it official by filing the new plan with the FCC. That’s because NAB lawyers are struggling with the fine print, said Sherman.

Broadcast industry sources say the revised TV content code will be delivered to the FCC by the end of the week.

In addition, Sherman also said he expects the complex new code will face a court challenge. Like others, Sherman expects that challenge to come from “a major producer or an independent producer.” The Producers Guild of America announced this week that it is concerned about the rating system and will be taking a close look at possible legal action.

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