PTC Renews Call to Disband TV Content Ratings Board

The Parents Television Council was underwhelmed by the TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board's first-ever annual report and renewed its call for disbanding the board.

The FCC reviewed the TV ratings, which the monitoring board oversees, and in a report to Congress last May said the board had not been sufficiently accessible or transparent, but that there is not enough evidence to conclude the ratings were inaccurate, but chiefly because the FCC did not have enough time to make that determination and meet its congressional deadline (90 days to do produce the report).

Related: PTC Calls for Reconstituting Content Ratings Board

The board is currently headed by Michael Powell, president of NCTA-The Internet & Television Association (board leadership rotates among the head of NCTA, the National Association of Broadcasters and the Motion Picture Association of America).

In a letter to Powell, PTC president Tim Winter thanked him for sending a copy of the report, and said he shared Powell's appreciation of their continuing dialogue on the issue. But in Winter's latest end of that dialog, he took issue with that work product.

"While I appreciate whatever volume of effort that went into the Report’s production, I am profoundly disappointed by the woefully inadequate output," Winter wrote. "If the objective was to produce a report, then you succeeded; but if the objective was to help parents to be better parents, then sadly you’ve failed."

Winter ticked off the reasons for his displeasure, which were many.

First, he said the board's efforts to date--redesigned logo and Web site ("that most Americans have never heard of, and reconnected a phone line that nobody knows exists," said Winter), a single podcast, a press release about the annual report, and more "hollow talking points," were hardly ta "material improvement," nor were "spot checks conducted by industry employees to confirm the accuracy of industry opinion."

In addition to disbanding the board and reconstituting ratings oversight among children's advocates and educators as well as industry officials--there is PTA representation on the current board, which Winter acknowledges--PTC and Winter want Congress to convene a hearing with "pediatricians, children’s mental health experts, and child/family advocates" to review the age-based ratings "to ensure that each rating category definition accurately and effectively reflects contemporary knowledge and international best practices."

Citing a 2018 survey, Powell said in the preamble to the annual report that: "90 percent of parents are aware of the TV ratings system; nearly 95 percent of parents are satisfied with the accuracy of ratings for TV shows. Approximately 88 percent of parents find the TV ratings system helpful; three in four parents report using the TV ratings often or sometimes; and more than 75 percent of parents maintain a favorable opinion about the TV ratings system."

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.