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The Rating Game

The Rating Game

Author: Amee Wittbrodt
  • Understand, analyze, evaluate, and use different types of print, digital, and multimodal media.
  • Critically analyze information found in electronic, print, and mass media and use a variety of these sources.
  • Gain an understanding of TV ratings and the history behind them.
  • Explain what each rating means and the age group it is appropriate for.
  • Analyze the effectiveness of the V-Chip.
  • Recognize which TV shows/commercials have to be rated and which ones are exempt.

This packet presents information about how TV shows are rated and the history behind these ratings. Students are asked to explore to learn more information about the V-Chip and what each rating means.

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Background Information

Responding to requests by parents' organizations and member of Congress, in January 1997 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) began requiring television broadcasters to post a rating of the content of each television program. (Don't confuse this with Nielsen ratings, which measure the number of viewers.) Some groups thought the content ratings did not give parents enough information about the content of the shows, so in October 1997, broadcasters added content advisories.

When a TV program comes on the air, the appropriate letters are supposed to appear on the left corner of the screen for the first 15 seconds. If the program is more than an hour long, the letters should reappear at the start of the second hour. Many programs also display the rating again after a commercial.

Visit the following website to learn more about TV ratings:

Click on "Home" "The Ratings" and "FAQS."


Spring Clean Your TV

The TV Parental Guideline Ratings System was modeled after movie ratings to give parents easy-to-follow warnings regarding the content and age-appropriateness of TV programs. Ratings apply to all programs except sports and news shows.

TV Ratings are broken down into two basic parts: Age-Appropriate Guidelines and Content Descriptors. Age-Appropriate Guidelines: Provide a guideline to the age-appropriateness of TV shows.

Discussion Questions

  1. Match the description the correct rating: This program is designed to be appropriate for all children. Whether animated or live-action, the themes and elements in this program are specifically designed for a very young audience, including children from ages 2-6. This program is not expected to frighten younger children.
  2. Match the description the correct rating: This program is suitable for a general audience. It contains little or no violence, no strong language and little or no sexual dialogue or situations.
  3. Match the description the correct rating: This program is specifically designed to be viewed by adults and therefore may be unsuitable for children under 17. This program may contain one or more of the following: crude indecent language (L), explicit sexual activity (S), or graphic violence (V).
  4. Match the description the correct rating: his program contains some material that is unsuitable for children under 14 years of age. Parents are strongly urged to exercise greater care in monitoring this program and are cautioned against letting children under the age of 14 watch unattended. This program may contain one or more of the following: intensely suggestive dialogue (D), strong coarse language (L), intense sexual situations (S), or intense violence (V).
  5. Match the description the correct rating: This program is directed towards older children because it contains fantasy violence. The fantasy violence may be more intense or more combative than other programs in this category, such programs will be designated TV-Y7-FV.
  6. T/F? A TV program aired on CBS might have a different rating than the same program aired on Fox.
  7. T/F? If you have a problem with the ratings of a TV program, you can contact the TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board.
  8. T/F? Programs are voluntarily rated by broadcast and cable television networks, or program producers.
  9. T/F? The same program will have the same rating week after week.
  10. T/F? Theatrical movies are typically edited when they air on broadcast or basic cable channels.
  11. In response to requests by parents' organizations and Congress, what year did the FCC start requiring TV stations to post ratings?
  12. Which two TV programs are exempt from the ratings system?
  13. How is the rating displayed on the TV?
  14. Are commercials rated?
  15. Explain what the V-Chip is. Do you think it's effective? Why or why not?
  16. The First Amendment of the US Constitution says that the government cannot unreasonably interfere with freedom of speech. Some broadcasters have complained that being forced to post these ratings and advisories violated their First Amendment right of free speech. Do you agree or disagree with the broadcasters? Explain.
  17. Should broadcasters be able to show anything they want to show on television and leave it to people to decide if they want to watch? Or should the government decide what can and cannot be shown? Explain.