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Ratings Reform If you watch TV, at the beginning of most programs and after most commercial breaks, you’ve probably noticed a program rating – something like “TV-PG L” or “TV-14 DLSV.” That’s the content rating of the program you’re about to watch. Like the familiar movie ratings, they tell you the content of the show, and they also trigger the “V-Chip” to screen out programming harmful to kids. Or they’re supposed to. In fact, ever since it was introduced in 1996, the TV content ratings system has never worked correctly. According to surveys, most parents don’t know how to program their V-Chip, and don’t know what the various ratings mean. Even worse, the networks who produce TV shows are the same ones who rate the shows – AND they control the board that is supposed to oversee the ratings process! So the same people make the shows, rate the shows, and oversee the ratings of the shows. This is a huge conflict of interest…especially since, the lower the age rating on a show is, the more people (including children) will be able to watch that show. And since TV is all about attracting large numbers of viewers, the networks have an incentive not to rate their programs accurately. Here at the PTC, we believe that parents ought to be able to depend on the content ratings to provide a real guide to the show’s content. The TV content ratings should be accurate and consistent – the same content should receive the same rating, no matter what network it’s on. And the way the system operates should be transparent and accountable to the public: parents should know who is rating programs and why, and they should have a voice in how shows are rated. This is why we’ve launched our newest initiative: Ratings Reform. In the future, we’ll organize a symposium of America’s top media scholars, to make the case for the need for reform. We’ll meet with members of Congress and the Federal Communications Commission, and urge them to reform the ratings system. And we’ll challenge the TV Ratings Oversight Board to make the television content ratings system one that actually meets the needs of parents, and helps them protect their children from harm. 6

PTC Annual Report 2015