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Senator Urges Uniformity in Content Ratings

Dec 5, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Offering the media industry a last-ditch opportunity to clean up its act on its own, Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, last week urged broadcasters, cable TV and satellite radio and TV operators-and perhaps even mobile phone companies and Internet service providers-to work together to establish an industrywide system of uniform content ratings and blocking technologies that will easily let parents control what their kids see and hear.

At a briefing for reporters, Sen. Stevens, who chairs the Senate Commerce Committee, said he was seeking an agreement to work with the committee on the new ratings system in December. They hope to demonstrate to other lawmakers early next year that the industry is addressing concerns about indecent and violent material on its own.

If the effort to come up with a new voluntary system fails or doesn’t result in a regime deemed sufficiently effective, attention will return to finding a legislative solution to concerns about indecency, Sen. Stevens said.

“I’m interested in getting a voluntary agreement, if it’s possible, that will lead to a ratings system with an effective mechanism for families to control what content comes into their homes,” said Sen. Stevens, after an all-day committee forum with industry representatives on how to deal with continuing concerns about indecency issues. “If that doesn’t work, then we’ll have to go to the floor.”

Kyle McSlarrow, president and CEO of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, told reporters that his recent suggestion that lawmakers extend broadcast indecency regulation to cable’s basic tiers-with the understanding that the indecency regulations wouldn’t go into effect until the courts ruled on cable’s ensuing constitutional challenge-was based on the assumption that Congress was going to pass an indecency bill.

But according to Mr. McSlarrow, leading lawmakers have not embraced his proposal.