Sen. Lankford: FCC Should Ponder Show-Appropriate Ad Requirement

Sen. Jim Lankford (R-Okla.) has given the FCC some further guidance on what Congress is looking for from its mandate that the FCC review the TV ratings system and that includes looking at whether TV ads should also carry at least an implied rating that matches the show.

Initial comments were due March 12 and Lankford, who as former chairman of the Senate Financial Services Committee was one of the appropriators who directed the review, had lots of them.

Related: Congress Directs FCC to Review Content Ratings

Lankford signaled that one of the big reasons for the review was the "shift" in "tolerance" for programming with higher levels of sex, violence and language" and the need to make sure the ratings are accurate and being applied responsibly by content creators.

Lankford wants the TV Parental Guidelines Oversight Monitoring Board to review the system to make sure it accurately accounts for that change.

He wants that review to include an explanation of the standard being applied at each rating level and why the board thinks that is appropriate.

As for contemplating whether commercials should have to match the rating of the program it interrupts, presumably which would obviate the ad to display that rating in the ad if could be assumed.

"I would ask that when the Commission reviews the programming rating standard, there is also a review of the content of commercials created to advertise programming," he said. "During family-oriented or sporting events, commercial content can include scenes of violence, sexual content or offensive language," he said. "Should broadcast commercials match the rating of the program that it interrupts?"

Lankford says that he does not want the government to start regulating entertainment industry content and that they produce programming that discourages racism, hatred and injustice. But he said there are also potential adverse effects and even some evidence linking media violence with "aggressive behavior, desensitization to violence, and more.

He says that while a rating may not stop those, it gives families an opportunity to have a conversation about appropriate content. 

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.