Written by PTC | Published March 27, 2014
The V-chip is not the solution. That technology merely protects the industry from the parents, rather than the other way around. It only facilitates business as usual... The V-chip is a sideshow and a diversion. I have observed this game since the 1970s. It is called 'the carrot and the stick.' Legislators posture in public, shaking the stick; and then vote the carrot of multibillion dollar windfalls for the same companies they pretend to threaten. They may even extract some meaningless concessions to calm the waters, take the heat off their media clients - who are among their major bankrollers - and call it a victory. But the industry knows better. The cover story of the 14 August 1996 issue of the trade journal Broadcasting & Cable... is titled "Why the Markey Chip Won't Hurt You." In fact, it can only help the industry. It's like the major polluters saying, "We shall continue business as usual, but don't worry, we'll also sell you gas masks to 'protect your children' and have a 'free choice!' [George Gerbner, former dean of the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, responding to the question "Is Media Violence Free Speech" in a debate with Todd Gitlin, June 1997. Wired Magazine.]Television networks are financially motivated to underrate their programs, because a higher rating could scare off sponsors. In a study released last December, the PTC found that although the violence on broadcast television was comparable to that on TV-MA-rated cable series’, every broadcast series was rated TV-14. The MA rating is a symbol of prestige for a cable network (in the same way virtually every Best Picture Oscar Nominee is rated R), but can be the kiss of death for a broadcaster that is wholly reliant on ad revenue. But in the case of serial-killer dramas like The Following, or Hannibal, an MA rating is clearly warranted. An MA rating would mean that if parents knew nothing about the program other than the age-based rating, they could still make a reasonably informed decision about whether or not to allow their teen to watch. It would also mean that parents using the V-Chip would not have to worry about their child accidentally stumbling across this content while innocently changing the channels. But because an MA rating would probably mean a loss of viewers and loss of revenue, Fox gives it a lower rating, knowing that there will be no consequences for doing so. In 2007 Federal Communications Commission unanimously adopted a report on the impact of violent television programming on children. Among other things, the FCC concluded, based on that report, that it could constitutionally regulate violent content and that blocking technologies, such as the TV ratings system, are ineffective to control children's exposure to violence. Six years later, the FCC still has not acted on that report, and violence is as graphic, wide-spread, and accessible to children as ever. Something clearly needs to change. It’s time for meaningful reform of the television ratings system.