Although the nation’s leading nonpartisan family television watchdog group has good reason to be optimistic heading into 2020, there's also cause for concern for families looking to protect their children from seeing explicit content.
Over the course of the last few years, there has been a "dramatic change" in Hollywood. According to the Parents Television Council, it’s been a very “dangerous turn.”
“Instead of children just being collateral damage in the way of whatever explicit content they want to deliver to adults, Hollywood now seems to be directly marketing some of the most explicit stuff to children,” PTC President Tim Winter told The Christian Post in an interview.
“It has never been more difficult as a parent to monitor your children's media consumption then right now, today.”
In 2019, there were a number of “good” developments that took place. But at the same time, there was plenty of “bad” that happened as well, Winter said.
FFC reports concerns with TV content rating system
Early last year, Congress ordered the Federal Communications Commission to review and report on the accuracy of its TV content rating system and the effectiveness of the oversight provided by the TV Parental Guidelines and Oversight Monitoring Board, the administering body that oversees the rating system.
The order came as family media activists have for years voiced concerns that the FCC’s TV content system was not transparent and did not effectively warn parents about troubling content in programs.
Advocates have also said that the system is outdated because it was put in place long before the creation of online streaming services like Netflix or smartphones.
Additionally, advocates have criticized the oversight monitoring board on grounds that it is comprised of entertainment executives more concerned with protecting the financial interests of their companies.
The FCC released a report in May that validated the concerns voiced by PTC and others.
“FCC publicly confirmed what the PTC has been saying for years about the TV content rating system and its inaccuracies, inconsistencies and lack of oversight in really serving the needs of parents as opposed to protecting the financial interests of Hollywood,” Winter said.
“It will serve as a catalyst for us in our policy effort in 2020.”
Despite the FCC report, Winter says the monitoring board has taken “zero steps” in the last seven months to “act upon anything that the FCC’s report suggested is in need of improvement or updating.”
“We are poised to strike if they don't act in the very near future,” Winter promised. “They need to step up. They need to announce improvements. One thing that needs to be done with the TV rating system is a uniform system across broadcast cable and streaming media platforms.”
“Parents need something that they can rely upon,” he stressed. “We are hoping that as part of the reforms to the rating system that streaming media is at the table and they adopt the improvements.”
In November, Disney launched its subscription streaming service Disney+, which distributes Disney movies and television shows as well as original programming. According to Winter, the Disney+ launch was a “big thing for families” in 2019.
“We have a streaming system now that is free of the type of content you see on Netflix that is so toxic,” Winter said, adding that the service is “mostly family-friendly” but there are some areas where he hopes Disney+ will improve.
“There's still no parental controls on Disney+,” he said. “And that doesn't mean that every single Disney property is appropriate for every family. There really needs to be some level of parental control.”
Winter said he thinks there should also be some filtering technology on Disney+ and other streaming platforms for parents who want to block content within shows that are not suitable for children.