Biz cracks code

MPAA, b'casters blast Clinton ratings plan

WASHINGTON — President Clinton’s proposal that the film, television, music and video industries implement a single content code to help parents screen sex and violence in popular culture is dead on arrival, according to Motion Picture Assn. of America topper Jack Valenti.

Valenti said Clinton’s proposition is “barren of any chance of survival.” Like other entertainment industry lobbyists, Valenti did not get word that President Clinton would make the recommendation in his annual State of the Union address until four hours before Thursday night’s speech.

“Nobody checked with anybody,” Valenti said. “The White House did not do their homework.”

President Clinton said a single rating system would help parents cut through the confusion of trying to understand separate content codes for film, music, TV and videogames.

National Assn. Broadcasters prexy Edward Fritts joined Valenti in opposition to a universal rating system. Fritts also called the proposal unworkable. The television industry would find any changes in the current rating system particularly troublesome because it has implemented a relatively complex content code that works hand-in-hand with V-chips that are now included in most TVs sold in America. The sets can read the content rating of particular shows and block the display of a show if programmed to do so. “With millions of V-chip-equipped television sets in the marketplace, it would be unfortunate for parents and families to be asked to adapt to a new system of program guidelines,” Fritts said in a prepared statement.

One universal content code may not be popular with the entertainment industry, but it is gaining momentum in Washington. In addition to President Clinton’s support, legislation outlining a “voluntary” but cohesive content code has been introduced in both the House and the Senate.

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