Talks rate I for inconclusive

NEW YORK — The TV content ratings stirred up discontent in D.C. again Tuesday as a triumphant press conference was quickly announced and then even more quickly canceled, and industry mavens debated the trauma level of watching Road Runner cartoons.

TV industry lobbyists and parent advocacy groups continued to debate a revised system for content ratings. Although they failed to reach an agreement, they said they’d continue to talk today.

According to various sources, areas of dispute include the industry’s demand that if it agrees to a new group of letter designations (V for violence, S for sex, L for language), then pressure groups should declare at least a two-year moratorium on further calls for government restrictions on program content.

Sources said the industry also is unwilling to allow a V on cartoons such as those in which Wile E. Coyote jeopardizes his physical well-being during futile attempts to snare the Road Runner.

In the industry’s view, a V rating on cartoons laced with mayhem could result in a disastrous ratings loss as parents activate their V chips. The latest potential compromise, one source said, is an FV, for fantasy violence, although too many letters attached to a TV show could end up confusing parents, not helping them.

In what one insider called a “comedy of errors,” word percolated through Washington on Tuesday that the parties had concluded a deal. Two senators, Dan Coats (R.-Ind.) and John McCain (R.-Ariz.), scheduled a 5 p.m. press conference to take credit for the purported arrangement.

But as the afternoon dragged on, the talks hit a snag, and the lawmakers had to call off the press briefing. At about 5 p.m., the negotiators decided to go home.

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