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TV Content Ratings 'Inadequate' in Protecting Children

04-05-2016
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Are the content ratings for television programs protecting children or protecting Hollywood?

That's the question being asked by the Parents Television Council in a new study that examined the last 20 years of the TV Content Ratings System.

The organization reports it discovered "widespread, systemic problems" that make the ratings system "inadequate for protecting children from graphic sex, violence, and profanity on television," according to a news release.

"Going back 60 almost 70 years we have research that shows that kids that are exposed to violent media content are more likely to act aggressively -- they're more likely to have aggressive attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, effects," Melissa Henson, program director for the PTC, told CBN News. "They're more likely to believe that something bad is going to happen to them or to their family."

"Children who are exposed to high levels of sexualized media content are more likely to engage in sexual behavior at a younger age. They're at higher risk for STDs or an unplanned pregnancy," she continued.

"Parents who rely on the TV Content Ratings System to make informed decisions about what to watch on television have been deceived, as our new research shows that the ratings system has systemically failed to provide accurate and consistent information for its entire 20-year existence," said PTC President Tim Winter. 

According to a news release, the PTC says its study learned:

  • Regularly-scheduled series rated TV-G (appropriate for all audiences) have been eliminated from prime time. In all practicality, family shows rated for all audiences do not exist;
  • There are fewer programs on prime time broadcast television rated TV-PG;
  • There are fewer differences between the content of programs rated TV-PG and those rated TV-14
  • Graphic content on television is increasing in both amount and intensity; yet every hour of content on broadcast television is rated as appropriate for a 14-year-old child, or even younger ages.
  • Despite containing explicit content, no continuing program on broadcast television is rated TV-MA, appropriate for mature audiences only.

"The implications in our report are enormous and should give the TV industry significant pause," Winter said. "The industry should have to answer as to why TV-G rated primetime series are extinct; why the lines between TV-PG and TV-14 shows are blurred; why more adult content is being shown on TV-PG shows; why nudity and violence are increasing on broadcast TV overall."

The PTC said another problem with the TV Content Ratings System is a conflict of interest.

"One reason for the problem is that the TV networks rate their own shows, creating an inherent conflict of interest," Winter said. "You don't see any TV-MA rated (the highest adult TV rating) shows on broadcast TV. It's not that some of the shows don't warrant the MA rating. It's that the networks are financially motivated not to rate programs properly because most corporate sponsors won't advertise on MA-rated programs." 

"Another conflict of interest is that the TV networks run the board that oversees the ratings process," Winter continued. "That board, the TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board, has enabled and sheltered this flawed ratings system rather than follow its FCC-sanctioned mandate to monitor the system and improve upon it where necessary. For years, we have addressed our concerns to the Board but to no real avail."

"Congress, the FCC, public health advocates, and parents must insist that the TV Content Ratings System be accountable to the public and meet the needs of the parents and families it was intended to serve," Winter said.

For more information or to read the full study, click here.

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