Congress plans ratings based on TV content

February 26, 1997|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

NEW YORK -- Dissatisfied with the television industry's age-based ratings system, several members of Congress intend to introduce legislation that would effectively force the TV networks to provide content-based TV ratings.

Sen. Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., planned to introduce a new "safe harbor" bill in the Senate today that would require the television industry -- which includes the major networks, cable stations and syndicators of programs -- to either label shows for violence or move them to "safe harbor" hours when children are less likely to be watching.

And in the House today, conservative Rep. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., will team up with liberal Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., one of the leading critics of the industry's ratings system, to introduce Hollings' "safe harbor" bill.

Rep. Joseph Kennedy, D-Mass., plans to introduce a bill tomorrow that would establish a toll-free phone number at the Federal Communications Commission to track parents' concerns about the TV industry's system.

Meanwhile, other members of Congress are considering introducing legislation that would require content-based TV ratings, sources said.

This burst of legislative activity comes as the TV industry is preparing to face a barrage of criticism at a hearing tomorrow on the ratings system held by the Senate Commerce Committee. Eight Republican and Democratic senators and representatives plan to testify against the networks' system. Only one, Rep. Sonny Bono, R-Calif., plans to speak in support of the industry's guidelines.

The networks have been labeling their shows since Jan. 1 with age-based labels (TV-PG, TV-14 and other categories) that are modeled after the ratings for movies. But critics want the networks to provide labels that would rate TV shows according to the amount of sex, violence and foul language they have.

Pub Date: 2/26/97

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