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PTC Launches TV Ratings Revamp Petition

The Parents Television Council, joined by various familiar TV content critics (28 of them), continues to push for an overhaul of the TV ratings system.

That came in the form of a letter Monday to the FCC commissioners and congressional leaders, as well as a newly-created online petition for action.

PTC has various complaints about the system (see below), and is joined by, among others, the American Decency Association, the American Family Association and the Citizens for Community Values.

"It has been nearly two decades since the FCC adopted a formal order establishing the V-Chip, the television content ratings system, and the Parental Guidelines Oversight Monitoring Board [OMB]. Rather than helping parents to protect their children from harmful and explicit programming, the system has effectively protected the television industry from public or regulatory scrutiny," they wrote.

PTC and company say the first order of reform business is to overhaul the OMB. It is composed chiefly of members of the TV, cable and content industries, with only five non-industry seats on the 23-member board, they point out, and even those appointed by industry and not all of them filled. "In other words, the body charged with oversight of the television content ratings system is comprised of those whom it is supposed to be monitoring," they wrote. "Under the current system, the same people who create TV content then rate the content they’ve created, and also run the board that oversees the rating process. They also produce an occasional public opinion survey that validates the current system."

PTC says virtually no shows are rated as suitable for the whole family in primetime, that shows are being mis-rated and that networks rating their own shows has always been problematic and an inherent conflict of interest. It wants the FCC to throw out the old system and start over and says it will make itself heard at the FCC and Congress—it has already met with members of the FCC's congressional oversight committees, according to PTC.

PTC launched its new campaign for ratings reform last month and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) one of the driving forces behind the TV ratings and the associated V-chip TV set technology has since signaled he was holding meetings on the issue and an aide told B&C there was "more to come."

A group of academics—from Harvard to New Mexico—has written FCC chairman Tom Wheeler and the other commissioners asking them to look into the TV ratings system and how it could be improved given what they say is the documented impact of TV, including the harmful impact of violent content (some academics dispute that), on children. They also want Congress to get involved.