PTC Calls V-Chip 'Meaningless'

Saying that broadcasters have a financial incentive to underrate the sex, violence and language in their shows, the Parents Television Council released a study Monday charging that the ratings system is inaccurate and that the V-chip is a failure.

“Our findings show the blatant hypocrisy of TV executives who claim that parents should rely on TV ratings and the V-chip to protect their children," Said PTC President Brent Bozell.  "Most television programs showing foul language, violence, and inappropriate sexual dialog or situations do not use the appropriate content descriptors that would warn parents about the presence of offensive content.”

PTC studied programming on the seven networks (they include Pax TV) for three sweeps periods--November 2003 and February and May 2004--and found that all the networks had a "problem with accurate and consistent" application of the D (dialog),S (sex),L (language), V (violence) descriptors. NBC doesn't use them at all, relying on the age-based ratings alone (TV 14, TV MA)

So long as the descriptors are arbitrary--PTC says between a third and over two-thirds of shows with content that should require the descriptors don't have them--the V-Chip can't work and parents are "powerless to decipher" the ratings system.

PTC found Fox had the highest level of disconnect, saying that "71% of the PG-rated shows containing suggestive dialogue lacked the D descriptor; and 76% of the shows containing sexual behavior lacked the S descriptor."

"Fox is proud of both our ratings discriptor program and the V-chip PSA campaign that we have been airing for over a year," said Scott Grogin. "We feel we are providing our viewers with a significant service."

Back in 1996, at the urging of Congress, which was in the process of deciding whether and how to grant broadcasters digital spectrum (i.e., charge them for it or not), Broadcasters agreed to voluntarily adopt the rating system. For a primer on the ratings, go

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.