Clinton hosts rating confab

WASHINGTON — In an effort to bring the current talks over a new program labeling system to a speedy resolution, the White House is planning a meeting next week that will include kidvid advocates and broadcasters, sources said Thursday.

Administration officials refused to comment on the meeting, but Capitol Hill sources confirmed that a White House-hosted summit is in the works. Although no final date has been set, sources say a meeting convened by the Clinton administration will be scheduled to give both sides an incentive to wrap up a deal next week.

“The (Clinton) administration is looking for ways to resolve the issue,” said one administration official. Vice President Gore met this week with parties involved in the ratings talks including kidvid advocates and Motion Picture Assn. of America topper Jack Valenti.

Broadcasters are willing to add V, S and L content labels to their current age-based code, but they are resisting efforts by kidvid advocates to expand the labeling system further. The V would be added to shows to indicate violent programming, the S to shows with sexual content and the L to programs with strong adult language.

Repeat performance

It is not the first time the Clinton administration has used a White House meeting to promote the TV rating system. Eighteen months ago, dozens of top industry honchos met in Washington to announce that their companies would voluntarily implement a program labeling system. A similar summit was held to announce an agreement by the broadcasting industry to air three hours of kidvid each week.

Next week is turning into a busy one for industry reps. Not only is the White House planning to invite them to drop by, but they are also scheduled to meet with Senate Commerce Committee chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Tuesday. The purpose of the meeting is to give McCain a report on the ongoing talks. If he is disappointed with the progress, McCain has promised to introduce a bill that would effectively mandate a content rating system for television.

FCC hearing

And on Friday, the FCC is planning to hold a hearing on the program rating system. However, broadcasters are pushing the FCC to delay it. They say a hearing could be counterproductive if the current talks are still ongoing on Friday.

One congressional source worried that the White House is attempting to steal the spotlight if a deal on a new rating system is hammered out next week. “They are guessing that they will be able to host the (announcement),” said one Hill staffer.

While industry reps were pessimistic about the possibility of wrapping up a deal next week, other sources close to the talks said the two sides are relatively close to final terms. “All we really need is a deadline,” said the source. Between the FCC, Congress and the White House, deadlines are one thing that will be abundant next week in Washington.

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