In an apparent setback for opponents of the television industry’s new ratings system, the Federal Communications Commission is sending a notice today seeking only written comments--not a public hearing--on the controversial plan.
A coalition of children and parent groups, including the National PTA and the American Psychological Assn., had asked the FCC to hold hearings to debate the industry’s month-old plan.
Critics say it is too general to be of real value. FCC Chairman Reed Hundt has called for hearings and has the support of Commissioner Susan Ness, but he has been unable to persuade Commissioners Rochelle Chong and James Quello.
Advisors to Chong and Quello said Thursday that the two want to see the public’s written comments before deciding if a hearing is necessary. They noted that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Commerce Committee, is holding hearings Feb. 27.
“This is outrageous. It’s happening because the TV industry doesn’t want their TV ratings criticized in a hearing that would be carried on C-SPAN,” said Jeff Chester, executive director for the Center for Media Education, a children’s advocacy group that favors a ratings system that would tell parents how much violence, sex and harsh language is contained in a program.
The industry’s system uses labels such as TV-G, TV-PG and TV-14 to tell parents whether a program is appropriate for a given age group.