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Morality in Media rips TV rating plan

The religion-based advocacy group Morality in Media on Wednesday took an official position on the TV industry’s proposed V-chip legislation and ratings system, with its president, Robert W. Peters, deeming it “flawed” and “unacceptable” as an alternative to more radical broadcast-decency law enforcement.

Comparing the V-chip ratings to the Motion Picture Assn. of America’s film ratings, Peters said, “What the American public has been crying out for is socially constructive TV programming, not a system that rates a glut of unacceptable programming.”

Peters called on the Federal Communications Commission to reject the TV industry’s ratings proposal, stressing that “the solution to garbage is a cleanup project, not ratings.”

In blasting the proposed ratings, Peters cited a recent U.S. News & World Report poll that indicated only 27% of parents favored a TV rating system based on the MPAA model — but that 62% approved of a system naming program content, including nudity, obscene language, violence and sexual references.

“The industry is shying away from providing specifics about program content because facts, in contrast to PG ratings, would alert not just parents but also advertisers to the irresponsible, disgusting content of many programs,” Peters said. “That, of course, would mean lower ratings and far fewer advertising dollars.”

For an MPAA-type ratings system for TV to work as it should, Peters reasoned, parents would need to videotape programs in advance and later replay only those deemed suitable for their kids, which he sees as unrealistic.

“In many homes, children often watch one program while parents watch another, and it is unrealistic to expect parents to grill their children each evening about programs they don’t watch together,” he said.

Basing the new ratings system on what Peters calls the “subjective value judgments … of individuals from the very industry that has caused the problems” is akin to “putting the mouse in charge of the cheese,” Peters concluded.

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