Morality: Ratings and Warnings

Regulation for morality can cause a lot of debate among people. In May 1995, Bob Doyle (presidential candidate at the time) gave a speech on how he believes the entertainment industry is disruptive to children. He went on to say, “One of the greatest threats to American family values is the way our popular culture ridicules them. Our music, movies, television and advertising regularly push the limits of decency… We must hold Hollywood and the entertainment industry accountable for putting profit ahead of common decency.” What he means by all of this is that the entertain industry is making family values seem less important, and putting violence, sexual content, crude language etc. as more important in their productions, solely because they will make a higher profit.

One of the biggest problems involving this issue is what is considered morally acceptable to one person may not be considered morally acceptable to another person. So the bigger questions are: How do you find a balance to make the majority of people happy when everyone is so opinionated, and how do you stop the entertainment industry from producing explicit material when they are making a large profit off of it, and the people are demanding it?

To try to solve these issues a few ratings systems were developed. The film rating system is a form of industry self-regulation that was established by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the ratings created are meant primarily to help parents decide whether or not a film is appropriate for their family. An anonymous panel of citizens representing a national cross section of parents would implement the new rating system by a process of majority vote. The system categorizes the ratings as:

G: General Audiences, nothing that would offend parents for viewing by children.

PG: Parental Guidance Suggested, parents urged to give “parental guidance”. May contain some material parents might not like their young children to view.

PG-13: Parents Strongly Cautioned, Parents are urged to be cautious, some material may be inappropriate for pre-teenagers.

R: Restricted, Contains some adult material, parents urged to learn more about the film before taking their children with them.

NC-17: No one 17 & under admitted, clearly adult, children are not permitted.

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 required the development of a rating system for television programming along with the establishment of standards for blocking programming based on those ratings. In 1997 the NAB, the National Cable Television Association (NCTA), and the MPAA collaborated in producing the ratings system. Programs aimed at general audiences either TVG (general audience), or TVPG (parental guidance suggested), TV14 (unsuitable for children under 14), or TVMA (intended for mature audiences), the system exempted news, sports, and unedited motion pictures on premium cable channels. In 1998 additional ratings were added to create the “age-plus content” system: FV (fantasy violence) in the TVY7 category, V (violence), S (sexual situations), L (coarse language), and D (suggestive dialogue) in the remaining categories. The FCC also required that as of January 1, 2000 all new television sets must be equipped with the V-chip, capable of blocking programming based on the ratings system.

The people who benefit from this rating system are the TV viewers because they have a good indication or the kind of content that each movie or show is going to have, thus allowing them to make decisions on whether or not their family should watch it. The entertainment industry is hindered from this ratings system because they now have to base the content of their production around these ratings and their target audience.

Personally I think the ratings system was a good idea, it allows for viewers to have a heads up approach of what they’re going to watch and to make the decision if it is appropriate for the people they are with to watch it as well.

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