ANA Urges FCC to Reject Content Ratings for TV Commercials

ANA has urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to disavow any effort to require content ratings for TV commercials so that the V-chip or other tools could be used to block them from the programming in which they appear.  Content ratings for TV commercials are unnecessary and would seriously undermine broadcasting and other ad-supported media such as cable and satellite programming.

ANA's comments were filed today in response to a March 3 FCC Notice of Inquiry regarding a report the agency is required to submit to Congress under the Child Safe Viewing Act of 2007 on content blocking technologies.  Our comments were written by Robert Corn-Revere, noted First Amendment expert who is a partner at Davis Wright Tremaine LLP.

We believe that requiring content ratings for TV commercials would be economically ruinous for content providers in the electronic media.  Developing a system that enabled viewers to broadly block all ads while consuming the surrounding program would seriously diminish the value of all advertising, which underwrites the costs of production.

In addition, requiring thousands of ads to be rated because some may be "offensive" or "inappropriate" for children would be a clear example of regulatory overkill, as very few ads give rise to controversy.  Our comments describe the various industry self-regulatory programs that address concerns about ad placement for certain categories such as prescription drug products and alcohol beverage products.  We believe those programs are working.

Finally, we believe the FCC's notice appears to go far beyond the scope of the Child Safe Viewing Act by raising the question of ratings for commercials separate from the programming in which they appear.  This is an issue the FCC considered and properly rejected a decade ago in the V-chip proceedings.

If you have any questions about this matter, please contact Dan Jaffe (djaffe@ana.net) or Keith Scarborough (kscarborough@ana.net) in ANA's Washington, DC office at (202) 296-1883.