Top Arguments the Entertainment Industry Will Make Against a Better TV Ratings System

Written by PTC | Published March 6, 2019

TvBrokenRatings Hollywood earns high marks when it comes to hypocrisy. Case in point: Hollywood markets explicit sex, graphic violence, and profanity to our children through TV and movies by labeling them as appropriate for children and adolescents. Then Hollywood says that it’s up to the parents to use the various parental tools – the TV and movie ratings along with the V-chip – to ensure their children are protected from the explicit sex, violence, and profanity they market to them. That’s a win-win scenario for the entertainment industry and a lose-lose one for families. But families have an opportunity to help change this scenario. Congress has mandated that the FCC review the TV content ratings system and its subsequent oversight for the first time in the ratings system’s 22-year history. The FCC has opened a public comment period until Tuesday, March 12 to let anyone comment on the TV ratings system. We strongly encourage you, dear reader, to make your thoughts known on this matter. (Click here to learn how to file a comment.) Hollywood will certainly be commenting and offering every excuse not to improve the failed system that benefits them and not families. Here are a few excuses we anticipate they will provide: 1) “But parents say the ratings system works and are satisfied.” In a recent national online survey conducted for the TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board, “nearly 95 percent of parents remain satisfied with the accuracy of ratings for TV shows.” However, if these same parents were shown these video clips that are clearly misrated, would they still think the same thing? We doubt the TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board has asked parents about whether they believe TV shows are actually rated accurately. Parents Television Council research has consistently proven that the TV ratings are inaccurate and that TV shows are rated for younger audiences. See here, here, and here. But don’t just take our word for it. A 2016 study published in Pediatrics found that TV ratings “were ineffective in discriminating shows for 3 out of 4 behaviors studied [violence, sexual behavior, alcohol use, and smoking in TV shows]. Even in shows rated for children as young as 7 years, violence was prevalent, prominent, and salient.” Parents, are you still satisfied with the ratings system now? 2) “But TV ratings are subjective.” We’ve heard that “TV ratings are subjective” a time or two from TV executives we’ve spoken with. But the ratings system was created precisely to be objective. It’s even spelled out on the TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board’s website: Part of the problem lies with the fact that the broadcast networks are financially motivated not to rate their programming higher than TV-14, otherwise advertisers who are looking to reach broad audiences will leave. So, the networks end up rating all of their programming with TV-PG or TV-14, whether or not the content warrants a higher rating or not. Keep in mind that there are no TV-MA-rated shows on broadcast television, despite that Parents Television Council research found that the most violent shows on broadcast TV have essentially similar levels of violence as the most violent cable TV shows. So when the industry gives this excuse, it’s clear that they are the ones being subjective, not objective, for their benefit. 3) “But we don’t get complaints about the TV ratings.” The TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board says they accept complaints about TV shows. Only have you seen any advertising about this on TV, or on Facebook? Of course not. It’s much easier to quietly offer an email address, and then turn around and say they don’t get any complaints. In other words, if no one is speaking up, then everything must be fine. Perhaps they should review this video of misrated TV content. Sure, everything is just fine. 4) “But nobody else except us, the networks, are in a position to determine a rating.” Dear TV networks, have you ever heard of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA)? The MPAA rates movies so that parents can make better viewing decisions. The MPAA’s website says: “Ratings are determined by the Classification and Ratings Administration (CARA), via a board comprised of an independent group of parents.” An independent group of parents? Hmm…maybe if it’s good for the MPAA, it might be good for the TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board, the notoriously secretive oversight board in charge of making sure the TV ratings are accurate. 5) “This is a manufactured crisis.” During the 22 years of the TV ratings system, the last four presidential administrations, which included two Democrats and two Republicans, have recognized media violence as a problem, and all four have pointed to the tools (TV ratings system, V-chip) that parents should use to help protect their children from harmful media violence. But those tools are an utter failure. Parents Television Council research during the month following Newtown found that on primetime broadcast TV shows, nearly half contained violence; and almost a third contained violence and guns. Fast forward five years later, and in the one month following the Las Vegas mass shooting (October 2017), Parents Television Council research found that TV violence – and gun violence in particular – that is marketed as appropriate for children increased on primetime broadcast television shows. Every program during the study period was rated either TV-PG or TV-14, meaning that the television networks determined every single program to be appropriate for a child aged 14 or, in many instances, even younger. The “V” content descriptor connoting violence was absent on nearly a quarter (24%) of the shows that contained violence. When decades of academic research back up the fact that children can be impacted and harmed by exposure to violent media, this is hardly a “manufactured crisis.” We hope you will join us in letting the FCC know what you think about the failed TV Ratings System. This may be the only opportunity to make the system work for families instead of against families. (Click here to learn how to file a comment.)

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