Broadcasters Align to Create Online Content Ratings

Kid-friendly plan comes ahead of upcoming court decisions

The major broadcast networks—ABC, CBS Corp (which includes The CW), Fox, NBC, Telefutura, Telemundo and Univision—have announced that they will be adding content rating seals to their programming when it goes online starting Dec. 1. On websites controlled by the networks, content rating info (you know, Y7, TV-MA) will be displayed both before the program and in its description.

A source close to the networks points out that it's in the best interests of the industry to appear family-friendly while the U.S. Supreme Court is considering landmark cases that could relax legal strictures on content. The highest court is set to rule on FCC v. Fox Television Stations soon, deciding whether or not the broadcaster should be punished for "fleeting expletives" on the Billboard Music Awards in 2002 and 2003. ABC has been added to the case; the network was fined $1.2 million for an episode of NYPD Blue that included a brief nude scene, and the FCC petitioned the court to hear its case again after a lower court threw out the fine.

If the high court finds against the FCC, many believe that the agency will be less likely to scrutinize as many perceived breaches of its broad content guidelines. Television networks, obviously, are anxious to encourage that outcome, so now is definitely the time to roll out an in-house effort to police content for kids.

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