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White House plea: Give TV ratings system a chance

rating December 13, 1996
Web posted at: 11:30 p.m. EST

From Correspondent Jill Dougherty

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bill Clinton said Friday he has yet to see the final version of the proposed TV ratings plan but, unlike its critics, he is willing to give it a chance.


"Let's remember how far we've come. This has been debated for 10 years," Clinton said.

The plan is already running into criticism from educators and children's advocates. They say the voluntary ratings, which are based on age groups, do not give parents enough information about how much violence, sex or strong language each program contains.

The president had some advice for those critics. "All the parents in the country ought to look at these ratings ... check the shows against the ratings, give it 10 months to work."

Not a done deal

TV industry lobbyist Jack Valenti, who has loudly supported the plan he designed, gave signs that the system is not a done deal. "There's room for tinkering," his spokeswoman told CNN Friday. She said it's possible the proposal will undergo some changes, but "the concept will remain the same."


The industry has agreed to review the new ratings system after 10 months. But one congressional critic of the industry said the country shouldn't waste 10 months studying a plan he claims is seriously flawed.

"I think Hollywood is so tied to their profits that they want to, and will continue to, ignore the requests of parents to give them all of the information about violence and sex and foul language that they need to protect their own kids in their own living rooms," said Rep. Edward Markey, D-Massachusetts, who has spoken out repeatedly against the proposed TV ratings system.

Public will have its say


The six-tiered ratings plan, which scores programs from TV-K (for all children) to TV-M (for mature audiences only), still has to be approved by the Federal Communications Commission. If it is not accepted, the FCC will set up an advisory committee to devise a new one.

FCC Chairman Reed Hundt called the early criticism "significant," saying, "I am frankly disappointed that it is not immediately playing to rave reviews."

However, he said he's reserving judgment. The ratings proposal will not be formally unveiled until next week. The FCC will then study the plan before soliciting public comments.

"This is a case where I haven't seen the movie and I haven't even seen the preview. I'm glad that they've volunteered something," Hundt said of the TV industry group developing the ratings.

Hundt said when the plan is issued for reaction from the public, "We'll provide a forum in which all Americans can tell us what they think, and we certainly aren't going to make up our minds before we get everybody's opinions."

The Clinton administration says the new ratings plan is still very much a "work in progress," but officials maintain the TV industry is on the doorstep of a new system that ultimately will help parents monitor what their children watch on television.


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