In Response to Thousands of Public Criticisms About TV Content Ratings System, PTC Calls Out TV Oversight Monitoring Board for Poor Response Towards Fixing TV Ratings System

Written by PTC | Published March 2, 2020

Ratings Systems

LOS ANGELES (March 2, 2020) – The Parents Television Council has renewed its call on the TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board to be “disbanded and reconstituted” in light of the board’s poor response to thousands of public criticisms, and a Congressionally-requested FCC report affirming the numerous, intrinsic failings of the TV Content Ratings System and recommending that significant improvements be made.

In a letter to Michael Powell, current chair of the monitoring board, PTC President Tim Winter called the board’s first annual report “woefully inadequate” to address the concerns about the failings of the TV Content Ratings System.

“The TVOMB had more than eight months to implement meaningful reforms that would demonstrate to parents the Board’s commitment to improving the ratings system and its oversight,” Winter wrote.

“Instead, according to your Annual Report, the Board has: redesigned its logo; redesigned a website that most Americans have never heard of, and reconnected a phone line that nobody knows exists; booked one of its Board members on a single low-profile podcast, hosted by an obscure, broadcast industry-controlled group that fails to mention on its own website anything about the ratings system or that it is a TVOMB member; released a press release and tweeted about its Annual Report, but generated a grand total of zero articles or news stories that parents would see or hear about; failed to engage with anyone but its own members (except for one video game industry representative); reiterated the same hollow talking points made by the TVOMB’s lawyers in its filings with the FCC last spring.

Winter continued, “If TVOMB does not see a problem, they are unlikely to find remedies. In all candor, the Report smacks of something that was done to assuage regulatory scrutiny rather than to improve upon a system that was created before Netflix and iPhones were even invented.

“Here’s what the Annual Report did not say:

  1. “What is the Board doing to address the many legitimate concerns raised in the public comments filed with the FCC during its review last spring?
  2. “What steps is the Board taking to ensure greater representation within its ranks of non-industry voices? (Two of the five public interest’ groups on TVOMB are controlled by industry executives.)
  3. “How can a robust, uniform content rating system be applied effectively across the digital platforms where children increasingly consume their entertainment programming?
  4. “Who, outside of the entertainment industry, has the Board consulted to seek guidance on how to make the ratings more helpful to parents?

“So, I reiterate what I said to you in my letter dated November 12, 2019: We are publicly calling for the TVOMB to be disbanded and reconstituted to better represent the interests of children and families. We are also calling on Congress to conduct a bipartisan, bicameral fact-finding hearing or symposium of pediatricians, children’s mental health experts, and child/family advocates to review the definitions of each age-based content rating in order to ensure that each rating category definition accurately and effectively reflects contemporary knowledge and international best practices.

“I understand and appreciate that your ‘first’ Annual Report cannot provide a panacea for each and every issue of concern. But it is hard for those who have committed their professional lives to protecting children from age-inappropriate entertainment to view the Report with anything but discontent.

“As always, I remain ready, willing and able to engage with you, with TVOMB and with our elected and appointed public servants on this important matter. Because our Children are Watching,” Winter concluded.

The PTC has led efforts to overhaul the TV Content Ratings System to ensure that the system is accurate, transparent, and publicly accountable.

The most recent PTC research found that there is substantially more profanity and violence in youth-rated shows now than ten years ago, but that increase has not changed the age-based content ratings the networks apply. TV programs rated TV-PG contained on average 28% more violence and 43.5% more profanity in 2017-18 than in 2007-08. There was over 150% more violence, and 62% more profanity total, on programs rated TV-14 in 2017-2018 than in 2007-2008.

PDF of the Letter: To Michael Powell 2 24 2020

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