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Editorial: Ratings system warns parents but entices children to watch

Jan. 29, 1997


TV Ratings System

Ratings system warns parents but entices children to watch

The issue:

TV ratings system

Our view:

The systems may provide a service to parents but tempt children to watch mature programming.


elevision has long been used as a babysitter by parents. Home Box Office even started a program called Dream On where a character would flash back on the television programs he watched as a child.

The babysitter isn't so friendly anymore. The image of Deputy Barney Fife reaching for his empty pistol has been replaced by Dennis Franz of NYPD Blue reaching for his something else. The screen is filled with 'reality' shows, such as a program for every law enforcement agency in the nation.

Children's easy accessibility to television spurred the major networks to devise a ratings system for their daytime and primetime programs.

The ratings, which range from 'TV-G' to 'TV-M', are displayed on the screen at the start of the programs to let parents know if the shows are appropriate for their children to watch.

On the surface, this labeling seems like a good system. Parents are forewarned if a program contains adult material and can control whether or not they want their child to see the program. However, most children don't watch television with their parents.

Another reason the television industry uses the ratings system has little to do with protecting

children from seeing violent or otherwise tasteless programming.

They came up with the system to

avoid falling under the control of the Federal Communications Commission. To appease the governmental agency, the industry came up with the program ratings and retained their freedom to continue broadcasting violence, sex and explicit language across the airwaves.

The rating system used by the networks is very similar to ratings used by the movie industry. Most parents don't allow their children to see R-rated movies which leads to curiosity on the part of the child.

When an 'TV-M' rating appears on the television screen, children are going to be intrigued by it. Without a parent around to stop them, children are free to watch anything they want, inappropriate or not. If the rating had not been there, the child might have continued flipping channels.

The television industry should be more careful about the content of their television programs instead of relying on a ratings system to act as a gatekeeper.

At movie theaters, ticket sellers have the right to deny youngsters from seeing R-rated movies. Parents have the power to control the television when they are around, but the ratings system has little power of stopping children from seeing certain programs.

If anything, the ratings could entice children to watch certain television shows when no one is around to stop them.

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