FCC expected to approve V-chip guidelines

WASHINGTON — The TV content code is heading for approval at the Federal Communications Commission next week, clearing the way for the installation of a V chip in TV sets by summer of 1999, say commission sources.

The FCC is expected to formally bless on March 12 the current content based code used by most broadcasters and cablers, commission sources said. The agency will remain silent on NBC’s decision to opt for its own version of a rating system. But that silence is not necessarily good news for the Peacock web.

Because the FCC will approve only a single rating standard for the V chip, it could put more pressure on NBC to conform, one agency staffer said. If NBC does not use the approved rating system, it could lead to a larger percentage of its programming being blocked by parents, said the staffer.

Chip tip

The FCC will also approve on March 12 a technical standard for the so called V chip which must be installed in most television sets sold in the U.S. The agency will however, delay the implementation of the V chip mandate until July 1999. Previously, the commission said it wanted TV set makers to begin installing the blocking device this summer.

The Associated Press released a poll Monday which found that 51% of parents pay no attention to the new content code, which has been in use for five months now. The new code combines a child’s age with descriptions of program content to provide parents with information about a particular show.

An earlier code, which relied solely on age based viewing recommendations was abandoned under heated criticism from public interest advocates and some members of Congress.

Parents speak out

The AP poll also found that 40% of parents use the new ratings system regularly, with 56% of parents replying that the code did an “excellent job” of providing information about program content. The AP poll was based on interviews with 1,007 respondents.

“We think this poll shows that parents interested in screening out objectionable programming find the programming guidelines useful,” said National Assn. of Broadcasters spokesman Dennis Wharton.

“The AP poll confirms how much parents crave more information about the content of TV programming,” said Rep. Ed Markey (D Mass.), who pushed the V chip legislation through Congress. Markey said the rating system will be even more powerful when it can be used in conjunction with the V chips which will one day be installed in TV sets.

“When families finally have the ability to link these ratings to the V Chip blocking device … the system will deliver to parents the power they now lack — the power to reduce the amount of violence and sexual material viewed by the children on the family TV even when (parents) are not in the room,” said Markey.

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