Networks to place content ratings on TV shows delivered online

Aiming to provide parents greater decision-making power, major U.S. broadcast television networks today pledged to extend the TV content-ratings system to their full-length programming accessible over the Internet.

ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, as well as Spanish-language broadcasters Telefutara, Telemundo and Univision have agreed to begin displaying content-rating information for their full-length on the Internet.

The networks said they would voluntarily start displaying their own devised ratings, beginning Dec. 1.

For broadcast TV, ratings range from TV-Y for "all children" to TV-MA for "mature audiences only." Content designations for broadcast programs appear on-screen--in a black box--during the starts of episodes. The TV content-rating system is administered by the TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board.

A recent survey by the group found that roughly 70 percent of parents use TV ratings to help choose programming. Moreover, 61 percent of teens reported watching television programming on a device other than a television set.

In separate statements, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski and Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, both Democrats, hailed the networks' commitments.

"With our rapidly changing media marketplace, it is vital parents have tools to help them make informed choices," Genachowski said.

Rosenworcel said children's video viewing is no longer limited to the television screen.

"The way we watch is clearly changing," she said. "But what is not changing is the need to provide parents with simple and honest means to monitor and manage their children's viewing."

The networks' move comes as broadcasters and regulators alike await this summer's expected U.S. Supreme Court's decision over the FCC's enforcement of rules against broadcast indecency. The case is Federal Communications Commission v. Fox Television Stations, No. 10-1293.

The Supreme Court case stems from a July 2010 U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit decision (613 F.3d 317) striking down the FCC's ban against "fleeting expletives" on television broadcasts. 

For more:
 - read Genachowski's statement
 - see Rosenworcel's statement

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