B’casters get Gored

Biz reps blindsided as VP backs parents groups

Talks between the TV industry and kidvid activists fell apart Thursday after Vice President Al Gore broke his silence on the subject and endorsed a plan backed by parents groups to strengthen the ratings system.

Industry reps were blindsided by Gore’s move, and they issued a terse statement calling off negotiations.

“Due to the vice president’s unwarranted intervention in the process, the National Association of Broadcasters, the National Cable TV Association and the Motion picture Association of America have recessed talks on any changes in the TV rating system until further notice,” the groups said in a statement.

As TV lobbyists were entering a meeting with Gore and kidvid groups, Gore issued a statement calling for the addition of V, S and L content codes (for violence, sex and language) to the current age-based rating system, which was patterned after MPAA’s movie ratings.

Gore went even further by pressing the industry to add violence codes to some kids programming — a major sticking point for the networks and studios.

Now, more than ever, it’s time for the industry to put the V back in the V-chip,” Gore said. “We need a V to tell us when our youngest children could be exposed to violence. I remain hopeful that the TV industry … will make sure that parents are given reliable information about the level of violence in Y-7 rated programs — the rating for acceptable programming for children over age seven.”

One industry source accused the parents groups of “a major breach of faith” because both sides had promised not to run to their respective legislative supporters to intervene in the negotiating process. “The only way this is going to work is if it’s bi-partisan,” the source said.

The issue of ratings for kids shows isn’t the only one yet to be resolved. Parents groups are pushing for what industry reps call a “ludicrous” and complex plan to label TV-14 shows with heavy language and milder violence: “TV14L-PGV.”

“They’re trying to get the Canadian system through the back door,” the industry source said.

Now that talks have stalled, it’s unlikely the industry will meet the deadline next week that Senate Commerce Committee chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) set for the industry and parents groups to hammer out a new system. An FCC hearing set for today was also postponed.

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