America's Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has published a report about the US TV rating classification system.
The familiar TV ratings, TVY, TV7, TVG, TVPG, TV14, TVMA are essentially self administered by the TV companies but there is an
overview body called The TV Parental Guidelines (Oversight) Monitoring Board. The board describes itself:
The TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board is responsible for ensuring there is as much uniformity
and consistency in applying the Parental Guidelines as possible. The Monitoring Board does this by reviewing complaints and other public input and by facilitating discussion about the application of ratings among members of the Board and other relevant
industry representatives. The Monitoring Board typically meets annually or more often, if necessary, to consider and review complaints sent to the Board, discuss current research, and review any other relevant issues. The Board also facilitates regular
calls among industry standards and practices executives to discuss pending and emerging issues in order to promote ratings consistency across companies.
In addition to the chairman, the Board includes 18 industry
representatives from the broadcast, cable and creative communities appointed by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), NCTA 203 The Internet and Television Association, and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), and five public
interest members, appointed by the Board chairman.
The chairman id Michael Powell and the board representatives are from
21st Century FOX
American Academy of
Boys and Girls Clubs of America
Call for Action
Entertainment Industries Council
Sony Pictures Entertainment
Turner Broadcasting System
Viacom Media Networks
The TV ratings are frequently criticised, at least by morality campaign groups and recently the FCC responded by undertaking a review of the TV rating system. The FCC has just published its findings and concurs with much of the criticism.
The FCC writes:
After reviewing the record as a whole, our primary conclusion is that the Board has been insufficiently accessible and transparent to the public. For example, when the Bureau began its work on this report, the Board's website did not even include a
phone number that someone could call to reach it. We are pleased that this problem was recently fixed. But in our view, additional steps should be taken to increase awareness of the Board's role and the transparency of its operations. Below are
suggestions along those lines that we submit for Board and industry consideration.
First, we urge the Board and the video programming industry to increase their efforts to promote public awareness of the Board and its role in
overseeing the rating system. We urge the Board and the industry to increase their outreach efforts concerning the existence of the rating system and consider additional ways in which they can publicize the ability of the public to file complaints, along
with instructions on how complaints can be filed. In this regard, as noted, the Board recently reactivated a telephone number for use in contacting the Board and also provides a post office box where physical mail can be sent.
Second, we suggest that the Board consider ways to inform the public regarding the number of complaints it receives, the nature of each complaint, the program and network or producer involved, and the action taken, if any, by the network/producer or the Board in response to the complaint. For instance, the Board could consider issuing an annual report on the complaints it has received about the ratings of programs, how those complaints were adjudicated, and whether complaints led to the rating of a program being changed in future airings.
Third, we suggest that the Board hold at least one public meeting, that is publicized with adequate notice, each year. This would permit the public to express their views directly to the Board and help the Board better understand
public concerns regarding program ratings.
we suggest that the Board consider doing random audits or spot checks analyzing the accuracy and consistency of the ratings being applied pursuant to the TV Parental Guidelines. This
information could be used, in addition to the survey data already collected by the Board, to help assess, and if necessary, improve ratings accuracy. Such information would also allow the Board and the industry to consider whether any changes are needed
to the guidelines themselves to ensure that they are as helpful as possible to today's viewers, consistent with the Board's commitment.
We note the ratings system has not changed in over 20 years and, despite its longevity, many
commenters contend that the rating system is not well-understood or useful to parents.
The Parents Television Council have reported that the FCC is required to review the TV content ratings system and report on the effectiveness of the system within 90 days, as per the Appropriations Bill of 2019. Specifically, the Conference Committee
Oversight Monitoring and Rating System.-In lieu of Senate report language on oversight monitoring and rating system, the FCC is directed to report to the Committees on Appropriations of the House and Senate
within 90 days of enactment of this Act on the extent to which the rating system matches the video content that is being shown and the ability of the TV Parental Guidelines Oversight Monitoring Board to address public concerns.
President Tim Winter said:
Finally, after more than 20 years, Congress is addressing the needs of families and the welfare of children by formally calling for the first-ever regulatory review of the TV Content Ratings
System and its ostensible oversight. We are elated that this important legislative wording was adopted as part of the appropriations bill that funds the federal government for this fiscal year.
US network TV is very strict about strong language and the basic cables channels have generally followed suit. However some of the more late night programming on basic cable has started to care less and less about tiptoeing around language.
SyFy and USA, both networks owned by NBC Universal, are now throwing caution to the wind and have been letting fly with 'fuck' since earlier this year.
Previously, swearing on SyFy and USA stuck to the guidelines laid out by the Federal
Communications Commission, but as a basic cable channel, their Standards and Practices division was not actually beholden to follow those rules strictly. In fact the only thing holding back basic cable networks from using what is considered to be more
vulgar language is their advertisers who traditionally don't like it.
To keep things clean, they usually dip the audio of either the f or the k whenever fuck is said in an episode. But according to Buzzfeed, USA and SyFy have worked that all out
because their stance now is when language 'fuck' specifically is deemed important to the style or plot of a show, Syfy and USA now allow it. Such language results in a TV-MA rating so audiences know it's intended for mature audiences only.
However, basic cable channels have started to push the envelope. The word shit has been thrown around a lot more on networks like FX, AMC, and Comedy Central. The latter was even the first to bring uncensored usage of fuck to basic cable by creating their late night programming block called The Secret Stash, which began with the airing of the R-rated film adaptation South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut. They don't have that block anymore, but their late night programming still airs the uncensored versions of movies and stand-up specials.
Fans of The Magicians on SyFy might have already noticed this change. Ever since the third season premiered on SyFy back in January, they've been dropping f-bombs uncensored.
Now doubt the US moralist campaigners will be reaching for their