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Federal Communications Commission
1919 - M Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20554
News media information 202 / 418-0500
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Internet: http://www.fcc.gov

Report No. CS 97-25 FCC 97-321
September 9, 1997


(CS Docket No. 97-55)

1. On January 17, 1997, the National Association of Broadcasters ("NAB"), the National Cable Television Association ("NCTA") and the Motion Picture Association of America ("MPAA") submitted a joint proposal to the Commission describing a voluntary system for rating video programming (the "industry proposal"). On February 7, 1997, the Commission issued a Public Notice seeking comment on the industry proposal.(1) The Commission subsequently received formal and informal comments from interested parties regarding the industry proposal.

2. On August 1, 1997, NAB, NCTA and MPAA notified the Commission that certain elements have been added to the video programming ratings system described in the January 17, 1997 industry proposal (the "revised industry proposal").(2) Generally, the revised industry proposal changes some of the descriptors associated with the age-based categories of programming and, in certain categories, adds symbols that indicate the type of material included in a particular program.(3) The revised industry proposal states that the revised guidelines are supported by leading family and child advocacy groups, as well as television broadcasters, cable systems and networks, and television production companies.(4)

3. Under the revised industry proposal, television programming would continue to fall into one of six categories, with symbols added indicating the particular content of each program, as appropriate.(5) For programs designed solely for children, the general categories are:

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 contains one or more of the following: graphic violence (V), explicit sexual activity (S), or crude indecent language (L).

4. The revised industry proposal also states that the icons and associated content symbols will appear for 15 seconds at the beginning of all rated programming, and that the size of the icons will be increased from those shown currently.(6) In addition, the revised industry proposal states that five representatives of the advocacy community will be added to the Oversight Monitoring Board.(7) The Oversight Monitoring Board was established in the original industry proposal to ensure that the ratings are applied accurately and consistently to television programming. The ratings information will continue to be supplied by cable network and television stations to newspapers and publishers of printed and electronic program guides so that the ratings can be included in program guides, and local television stations will retain the right to substitute the rating they deem appropriate for their audience for ratings assigned by producers and distributors.(8)

5. The above is only a general description of certain aspects of the revised industry proposal. For a more detailed description, interested parties are directed to review a complete copy of the revised industry proposal. The revised industry proposal is attached to this Public Notice as an Appendix. Copies may also be obtained from the Commission's Public Reference Room, Room 239, 1919 M Street, N.W., Washington, D.C., or from the Commission's Internet site (http://www.fcc.gov/vchip), or by calling ITS, the Commission's transcription service, at (202) 857-3800.

6. Under Section 551(e) of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (the "1996 Act"),(9) the Commission must determine, in consultation with appropriate public interest groups and interested individuals from the private sector, whether: (1) video programming distributors have established, within one year of the 1996 Act's enactment, voluntary rules for rating video programming that contains sexual, violent or other indecent material about which parents should be informed before it is displayed to children;(10) (2) such voluntary rules are acceptable to the Commission;(11) and (3) video programming distributors have agreed voluntarily to broadcast signals that contain ratings of such programming.(12) If the Commission determines that the industry proposal fails to satisfy these criteria, the Commission must establish: (1) on the basis of recommendations from an advisory committee, guidelines and recommended procedures for the identification and rating of video programming that contains violent, sexual or other indecent material about which parents should be informed before it is displayed to children; and (2) in consultation with the television industry, rules requiring the distributors of video programming that has been rated to transmit such rating to permit parents to block the display of video programming that they have determined is inappropriate for their children.(13)

7. Interested parties are invited to comment on whether the revised industry proposal meets the standards set forth in Section 551(e) of the 1996 Act. In particular, we seek comment on: (1) whether video programming distributors have established voluntary rules for rating video programming that contains sexual, violent or other indecent material about which parents should be informed before it is displayed to children;(14) (2) whether such voluntary rules are "acceptable";(15) (3) whether video programming distributors have agreed voluntarily to broadcast signals that contain such ratings;(16) (4) whether the revised industry proposal satisfies Congress' concerns in enacting the statute;(17) and (5) whether the Commission should determine the acceptability of any alternative ratings systems used by video programming distributors. We will incorporate the comments filed regarding the original industry proposal in the record for the revised industry proposal, although we encourage parties to file new or revised comments to the extent they are concerned with elements of the industry proposal that have been modified.

8. To file formal comments in this proceeding, interested parties must file an original plus four copies of all comments in CS Docket No. 97-55. If an interested party would like each Commissioner to receive a personal copy of its comments, it must file an original plus nine copies. Comments are due on October 6, 1997, and reply comments are due on October 20, 1997. Interested parties should send comments and reply comments to: Office of the Secretary, Federal Communications Commission, 1919 M Street, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20554.

9. Parties are also asked to submit formal comments and reply comments on diskette. Such diskette submissions would be in addition to, and not a substitute for, the formal filing requirements addressed above. Interested parties submitting diskettes should submit them to Rick Chessen of the Cable Services Bureau, 1919 M Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20554. Such a submission should be on a 3.5 inch diskette formatted in an IBM compatible form using MS DOS 5.0 and WordPerfect 5.1 software. The diskette should be submitted in "read only" mode. The diskette should be clearly labeled with the party's name, the words "Video Programming Ratings Proposal," the docket number of the Commission proceeding, the type of pleading (comments or reply comments), the name of the file(s), and the date of submission. The diskette should be accompanied by a cover letter. The Commission will post all submissions received on diskette on its Internet site (http://www.fcc.gov/vchip).

10. Interested parties wishing to file informal comments in this proceeding may send them to the Office of the Secretary at the address noted above, or may send them via electronic mail to: vchip@fcc.gov (this electronic mail address is also accessible through the Commission's Internet site). The Commission will post electronic mail submissions in their entirety on its Internet site. All formal and informal comments will be available for public inspection during regular business hours in the FCC Reference Center, Room 239, Federal Communications Commission, 1919 M Street N.W., Washington D.C. 20554.

11. This proceeding will be treated as a "permit-but-disclose" proceeding subject to the "permit-but-disclose" requirements under Section 1.1206(b) of the rules. 47 C.F.R. § 1.1206(b), as revised. Ex parte presentations are permissible if disclosed in accordance with Commission rules, except during the Sunshine Agenda period when presentations, ex parte or otherwise, are generally prohibited. Persons making oral ex parte presentations are reminded that a memorandum summarizing a presentation must contain a summary of the substance of the presentation and not merely a listing of the subjects discussed. More than a one or two sentence description of the views and arguments presented is generally required. See 47 C.F.R. § 1.1206(b)(2), as revised. Additional rules pertaining to oral and written presentations are set forth in Section 1.1206(b).

12. Accordingly, notice is hereby given of the Commission's consideration of the revised industry proposal submitted by NAB, NCTA and MPAA, and comment is sought regarding such proposal.

Action by the Commission, September 8, 1997, by Public Notice (FCC 97-321), Chairman Hundt, Commissioners Quello, Ness and Chong.



1. See Public Notice, Commission Seeks Comment on Industry Proposal for Rating Video Programming, CS Docket No. 97-55, FCC 97-34, Report No. CS 97-6 (February 7, 1997); Public Notice, Modification of Industry Proposal for Rating Video Programming, CS Docket No. 97-55, DA 97-518, Report No. CS 97-8 (March 12, 1997)(noting change in symbol for the category "Mature Audience Only" from "TV-M" to "TV-MA").

2. A copy of the revised industry proposal is attached hereto as an Appendix.

3. Revised Industry Proposal at 1.

4. Id.

5. Id. at 2.

6. Id. at 3.

7. Id.

8. Id. The guidelines will be applied to all television programming except for news, sports and unedited MPAA-rated movies that are shown on premium cable channels. The latter will continue to carry their original MPAA ratings and the additional advisories currently used by several premium services. Id.

9. Pub. L. No. 104-104, 110 Stat. 56 (February 8, 1996).

10. 1996 Act, § 551(e)(1)(A).

11. Id.

12. Id., § 551(e)(1)(B).

13. 1996 Act, § 551(b)(1), codified at Section 303(w) of the Communications Act of 1934 ("the Communications Act"), as amended, 47 U.S.C. § 303(w). The 1996 Act also mandated the inclusion in most new television signal receivers of the so-called "V-chip" technology, which will be capable of blocking the display of video programming with a common rating. 1996 Act, § 551(c), codified at Section 303(x) of the Communications Act, 47 U.S.C. § 303(x); 1996 Act, § 551(d), codified at Section 330(c) of the Communications Act, 47 U.S.C. § 330(c); and 1996 Act, § 551(e).

14. 1996 Act, § 551(e)(1)(A).

15. Id.

16. Id., § 551(e)(1)(B).

17. Id., § 551(a).