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V-Chip: Viewing Television Responsibly

The FCC requires all television sets with picture screens 33 centimeters (13 inches) or larger to be equipped with features to block the display of television programming based upon its rating. This technology is known as the "V-Chip." The V-Chip reads information encoded in the rated program and blocks programs from the set based upon the rating selected by the parent. [News Release on TV Set Requirements and Ratings]

Pursuant to the Commission’s rules, half of all new television models 13 inches or larger manufactured after July 1, 1999, and all sets 13 inches or larger manufactured after January 1, 2000 must have V-Chip technology. Set top boxes that allow consumers to use V-Chip technology on their existing sets are now available.

In Section 551 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 Congress gave the television industry the first opportunity to establish voluntary ratings. The industry established a system for rating programming that contains sexual, violent or other material parents may deem inappropriate and committed to voluntarily broadcast signals containing these ratings. [History of FCC V-Chip proceedings]

The rating system, also known as the "TV Parental Guidelines," was established by the National Association of Broadcasters, the National Cable Television Association and the Motion Picture Association of America. These ratings are displayed on the television screen for the first 15 seconds of rated programming and, in conjunction with the V-Chip, permit parents to block programming with a certain rating from coming into their home.

The TV Parental Guidelines

Labels and content indicators, and respective meanings. Printable Guidelines

TV-Y (All Children -- This program is designed to be appropriate for all children.) Whether animated or live-action, the themes and elements in this program are specifically designed for a very young audience, including children from ages 2-6. This program is not expected to frighten younger children.

TV-Y7 (Directed to Older Children -- This program is designed for children age 7 and above.) It may be more appropriate for children who have acquired the developmental skills needed to distinguish between make-believe and reality. Themes and elements in this program may include mild fantasy or comedic violence, or may frighten children under the age of 7. Therefore, parents may wish to consider the suitability of this program for their very young children. Note: For those programs where fantasy violence may be more intense or more combative than other programs in this category, such programs will be designated TV-Y7-FV. For programs designed for the entire audience, the general categories are:

TV-G (General Audience -- Most parents would find this program suitable for all ages.) Although this rating does not signify a program designed specifically for children, most parents may let younger children watch this program unattended. It contains little or no violence, no strong language and little or no sexual dialogue or situations.

TV-PG (Parental Guidance Suggested -- This program contains material that parents may find unsuitable for younger children.) Many parents may want to watch it with their younger children. The theme itself may call for parental guidance and/or the program contains one or more of the following: moderate violence (V), some sexual situations (S), infrequent coarse language (L), or some suggestive dialogue (D).

TV-14 (Parents Strongly Cautioned -- This program contains some material that many parents would find unsuitable for children under 14 years of age.) Parents are strongly urged to exercise greater care in monitoring this program and are cautioned against letting children under the age of 14 watch unattended. This program contains one or more of the following: intense violence (V), intense sexual situations (S), strong coarse language (L), or intensely suggestive dialogue (D).

TV-MA (Mature Audience Only -- This program is specifically designed to be viewed by adults and therefore may be unsuitable for children under 17.) This program may contain one or more of the following: graphic violence (V), explicit sexual activity (S), or crude indecent language (L).

History of FCC V-Chip Proceedings

Section 551 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 encouraged the broadcast and cable industries to "establish voluntary rules for rating programming that contains sexual, violent or other indecent material about which parents should be informed before it is displayed to children," and to voluntarily broadcast signals containing these ratings.

The history of the V-Chip proceedings can be found in the documents below:

TV Networks Urged to Recommit to V-Chip Education Efforts. [ News Release | Commissioner Tristani's Statement ]

FCC V-Chip Task Force Updates V-Chip Encoding Survey. [ News Release | Attachment A | Attachment B ]

FCC V-Chip Task Force Releases Updated Survey on the Encoding of Video Programming.

FCC's V-Chip Survey: Top TV and Cable Networks Encoding TV Ratings Information; Programming Like "South Park" and "Jerry Springer" Lagging Behind.

On June 9, 1999, Commissioner Gloria Tristani, Chair of the V-Chip Task Force, announces that 90% of the television set manufacturers would be in compliance with these technical requirements, by installing the V-Chip in half of all new T.V. sets 13" or larger by July 1, 1999 and in all such sets after January 1, 2000. [News Release | Commissioner Tristani’s Statement].

FCC Chairman William E. Kennard establishes V-Chip Task Force to monitor and assist in the roll-out of the V-Chip. News Release & Fact Sheet | Chairman Kennard's Statement ]

On March 12, 1998, the Commission found that the Industry Video Programming Rating System was acceptable [FCC 98-35], and adopted technical requirements for the V-Chip [FCC 98-36] [News Release].

Commission releases Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on technical requirements to enable blocking of programs based on program ratings (FCC 97-340, ET Docket No. 97-206). [ Text Version | WordPerfect Version | Acrobat Version | News Release ]

Commission issues a Public Notice (FCC 97-321) seeking comments on the Revised Industry Proposal for Rating Video Programming submitted by NAB, NCTA and MPAA.

Television industry submits a voluntary system of parental guidelines for rating television programming to the FCC for review.

last reviewed/updated on 5/16/12 

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