Apr 5, 2004  •  Post A Comment

The premise behind the v-chip is fairly simple.
It grabs content ratings information for programming and compares it with the parameters that have been set up by the TV owner. The v-chip is an extension of the control circuitry inside the television that receives programming information contained in the broadcast signal, such as closed captioning data, show title and rating.
TV-MA is for mature audiences only, for instance. Additional guidelines describe the type of content, with V for violence, S for sex and even FV for fantasy violence depicted in cartoons. Most broadcasters support the ratings, but NBC does not use the content labels.
Consumers program the parameters they want into their sets. A parent can program the chip so that all content except MA-rated shows can be seen, for instance. If a program with one of those ratings is on, a blue screen will pop up, asking for the PIN code to be entered to view the show. Presumably, only the parent would possess the code.
Consumers can activate the v-chip by with the menu button on the TV remote, bringing up a screen with an option for parental controls. Besides working on broadcast programs, the v-chip works on individual cable programs. Many cable set-top boxes have additional built-in parental controls that can be accessed through the menu button. The channel-blocking capability is separate but complementary-working to block an entire net, for instance. Except for sports and news, most cable programs are rated. As long as the show has ratings, and the v-chip has been set by the user, it should work.
“We need consumer education to tell people there is nothing unique to do in terms of buying equipment,” said Dave Arland, VP of government relations for Thomson, which makes RCA sets. “All you have to do is turn it on.”
Thomson added a feature last year to select sets called “Kidpass,” which allows a parent to program how much time the TV is on each day. That’s unique to RCA sets, Mr. Arland said.