A new study that was revealed during the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) convention – one of the largest gatherings for all types of media –revealed that most television networks are inaccurate when rating their television programs.
Released last week by the Parents Television Council (PTC) – an organization that monitors networks for content that may be harmful toward children, the report concluded that content descriptors for programs are being arbitrarily and inconsistently applied to shows in the primetime hours.
Two out of every three reviewed programs lacked one or more of the descriptors which would be deemed offensive to children. This would make the V-chip – a device that allows parents to block channels based either on the age-based ratings or on content descriptors – "virtually useless," according to the PTC.
"Last month, the PTC released Zogby polling data that exposed the Industry's $550 million so-called 'education campaign' as a sham," explained Tim Winter, president of the PTC, in a statement. "And here today we release the results of this study, documenting yet again that the TV ratings system, and by extension, the V-chip, are an utter failure.
"Together these findings point to only one possible conclusion: the Industry's 'concern' for families is nonexistent. If its concern was sincere, the ratings would be accurate and the Networks would not be in court right now suing for the right to air unedited profanity at any time of day."
As part of the report, the PTC examined six major networks – ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, CW and MyNetworkTV – during the November 2006 and February 2007 sweeps periods. This added up to 541 hours of programming on 608 individual programs.
The study primarily reported on four content descriptors: S for sexual content, V for violence, L for foul language, and D for suggestive dialogue. It also looked at the different rating systems, including TV-PG (parental guidance), TV-14 (should be 14 years of age), and TV-MA (mature, should be an adult).
Some of the findings are as follows:
• 54 percent of shows lacked the D descriptor, 63 percent lacked the S descriptor, 42 percent lacked the V descriptor, and 44 percent lacked the L descriptor.
• 100 percent of ABC programs rated TV-14 lacked one or more descriptors, 92 percent of NBC shows rated TV-14 lacked one or more descriptors, and 73 percent of CBS programs rated TV-14 lacked the S descriptor
The PTC is accusing the networks of under-rating their programs, so that most of their advertisers will still want to broadcast during their more controversial programming.
"The motivation of the Networks is clear: by hiding behind ratings and technology to pacify lawmakers, they can continue to air violent, profane and sexually-charged programming over the public airwaves when millions of children are in the viewing audience," added Winter. "They also know that by under-rating their programs, they won't scare away top-tier advertisers."
To help protect children, the PTC is asking that parents monitor what their children watch, but also to be proactive in promoting change in the industry.
"While parents continue to be the first and best line of defense against inappropriate or indecent programming, the industry must be forced to step up to the plate and accept responsibility for the products it delivers to every home in the nation," concluded Winter to the Christian Post. "People of faith frequently voice their concern about the cultural pollution on the public airwaves, and we encourage all Christians and other concerned parents to raise their voices again to hold the networks accountable."
99 percent of the programs in the report were rated either TV-PG (48 percent) or TV-14 (51 percent). This would mean that 50-99 percent of programs would not be blocked by the V-chip based on age descriptors.