May 2, 2005


NBC Changes Policy, Agrees to Rate Shows (Brooks Boliek, Apr 29, 2005, Hollywood Reporter)

NBC on Thursday reversed its nearly decadelong policy about rating its TV shows, announcing that it will add content descriptors to the age-based ratings system it has used since the inception of the V-chip.

The ratings system was developed in 1997 in response to the V-chip section of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, but NBC refused to run the descriptors -- V for violence, S for sexual content, L for vulgar language, D for suggestive dialogue and FV for fantasy violence -- because of First Amendment concerns and the fear that the onscreen clutter would confuse viewers.

In a statement, NBC Universal chairman and CEO Bob Wright said the change was made to serve the network's viewers.

"We serve our viewers best by ensuring that they are fully informed about the content of our programs," he said. "We particularly want to provide information to parents so that they can judge the appropriateness of programing for their children," he said. "These changes provide our network and cable viewers with more frequent and more detailed information about our programs. By enhancing the visibility of content ratings, and raising awareness of the V-chip, we believe parents have the tools they need to make informed decisions."

While that is his position now, it wasn't in 1997, when he told Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., that the content descriptors confused people.

Bill Clinton isn't president anymore.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 2, 2005 7:30 AM

NBC is fourth in the ratings race this TV season among the key deomgraphics. They're probably hoping if they put a few violence, sex or language disclaimers at the start of their shows, they can sucker a few more Nielsen families to tune in for a little while.

Posted by: John at May 2, 2005 10:24 AM

NBC is a private entity making choices about how to describe its programs. The alleged First Amendment issues are nonsense and the notion that using the same descriptors as everyone else would confuse the viewer is simply absurd beyond belief. Far more absurd than believing Julia and Eric Roberts are the same person.

Posted by: bart at May 2, 2005 11:10 AM