Techs weigh V-chip rules

Blocking of unrated programming a hot spot

WASHINGTON — A group of television industry engineers debated Tuesday whether to endorse a standard for the V-chip that would include the ability to block news, sports and commercials not classified under the TV content code.

The engineers met in Chicago at Zenith’s headquarters hoping to settle a dispute sparked by Thomson Consumer Electronics’ decision to block unrated programming.

Thomson, which controls about 20% of the TV set market through its RCA, GE and Proscan labels, is the only set maker to announce it will enable its V-chips to block all unrated programming. Broadcasters strenuously oppose Thomson’s decision to block unrated programming.

If a parent decides to block all unrated programming, the set will show only those shows with the most restricted possible rating: TV-Y.

The FCC said specifically when it blessed the V-Chip standard that it was OK to block unrated programming. Broadcasters object to the FCC’s view. They claim that unrated programming such as news, sports and commercials is not simply unrated but is, in fact, exempt from the program ratings system.

Under the FCC’s V-chip rules, 50% of the TV sets sold after July 1 must be equipped with the V-chip. About 25 million TV sets are sold in the U.S. each year.

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