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Broadcast Nets to Add Content Ratings Online

As B&C first reported
Sunday night, major broadcast networks confirmed Monday that they will begin
putting TV content ratings on online delivery of their TV shows beginning December

ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, Telefutura, Telemundo and Univision said
they plan to give parents "even greater decision-making power" over
their kids viewing over the Internet, where kids are increasingly accessing
video, broadcast and otherwise.

The move won't be much of a stretch for NBCU, which already
provides ratings info online, including Hulu, per a public interest pledge to
the FCC to help it secure the approval of the Comcast/NBCU joint venture.

The networks will be making the rating info available for
all full-length shows that stream on the websites they control. The nets have
committed to putting the ratings at the beginning of the shows and in online
programming descriptions. Network websites will also link to ratings system

The announcement comes even as the Supreme Court is expected
to rule on whether or not the FCC can continue to weigh in on what it thinks is
or is not appropriate content. It also comes as broadcasters move more of their
content online and the FCC wrestles with how to treat online video distributors
when it comes to various regulations -- access and carriage rules, for example.

"I applaud the networks' commitment to empower parents. With
our rapidly changing media marketplace, it is vital parents have tools to help
them make informed choices," said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski in a
statement. While the FCC has defended its indecency enforcement policies in
courts, the chairman has also argued that parents, together with technology,
are the best governors of kids media consumption.

"For years, the content ratings have proven to be one of the
most popular tools parents use to help make decisions about what their children
watch on television," said TV Watch Executive Director Jim Dyke in a
statement. "The most recent data shows that 68 percent of parents use the
TV ratings system and 95 percent of the parents who use them often find the
ratings helpful.... By taking this step today, these networks are giving
parents an expanded set of tools to help determine what their children watch
based on their own taste, style and age."

TV Watch was launched by the networks to promote the TV
ratings/V-chip parental controls to combat congressional pressure for indecency
legislation and tougher FCC enforcements.

Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel called it a good "first

"We are fast moving to a world where our children's video
viewing is not limited to the television screen -- but is on any screen, at any
time," said Rosenworcel. "The way we watch is clearly changing. But
what is not changing is the need to provide parents with simple and honest
means to monitor and [manage] their children's viewing. Today's announcement is
a first step in the right direction.  I
applaud ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, TeleFutura, Telemundo, and Univision for making
this commitment."

"NAB supports the broadcast networks' initiative," said Dennis Wharton, spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters."This represents a voluntary, good faith effort from distributors of the most popular programming to empower and educate parents in monitoring the viewing habits of children."

Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who was instrumental in pushing broadcasters to adopt the TV ratings system, also applauded the networks' move of those ratings online. 

"In the wireless world, consumers no longer need to be tethered to their television to enjoy the latest programming. Mobility has dramatically expanded the range of venues for watching TV," Markey said in a statement, but it has not changed the values that led to creation of the ratings system: parents still want tools to keep adult material away from their children. The extension of the use of parental guidelines to web-based content reflects this reality, and I commend the networks for offering parents the tools to exercise viewing choices."

Below is the pledge all the networks signed, according to a
copy from Fox.

"As the administrator of the film rating system, the MPAA commends the major television networks for extending the TV Parental Guidelines to broadcast content viewed on the Internet," said Motion Picture Association of America Chairman Chris Dodd. "The TV ratings system enjoys wide-spread support and has become a valuable resource to millions of families. Today's announcement means that parents will have even more tools available to them to make informed viewing decisions on behalf of their kids."

Empowering Parents in the Digital Age

The undersigned broadcast networks recognize the value of
providing parents with tools to
evaluate the television programming that
their children watch. One valuable tool for parents
is the TV ratings
system that the industry has voluntarily put in place.

Because the broadcast networks believe parents may find
it useful to have these ratings for
televised programming available when
children access programs on the Internet, the undersigned
commit to make
ratings information available for full-length programs that air on their
networks with parental ratings and are subsequently made available on websites

that the broadcast networks control. The precise means of making the information
will be determined by each company, but the TV ratings will
appear at the beginning of
full-length video programs and also in the online
programming descriptions.

This commitment will be effective for full-length rated
programming posted online after December 1, 2012,
on websites controlled
by the undersigned broadcast network companies.

Broadcast network websites will also include or link to
information about the ratings system.
The undersigned will announce
fulfillment of their commitment in December 2012.