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TV networks to add ratings symbols online

All of the major televsion networks in the U.S. have taken an industry-wide pledge to include parent-alerting ratings symbols with programs streamed online. The new initiative will begin in December, although news and sports shows are exempt.

The broadsters, including ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, Telefutura, Telemundo and Univision, said the move is necessary to give parents "’greater decision-making power" over what their kids are watching over the Internet. Like the V-Chip before it (which is now built into all televisions with a 13 inch screen or larger, that were manufactured after January 2000), it’s up to the parents to use the technology correctly.

The networks have reportedly signed the following pledge:

"The undersigned broadcast networks recognize the value of providing parents with tools to evaluate the television programming that their children watch. One valuable tool for parents is the TV ratings system that the industry has voluntarily put in place.

Because the broadcast networks believe parents may find it useful to have these ratings for televised programming available when children access programs on the Internet, the undersigned commit to make ratings information available for full-length programs that air on their broadcast networks with parental ratings and are subsequently made available on websites that the broadcast networks control. The precise means of making the information available will be determined by each company, but the TV ratings will appear at the beginning of full-length video programs and also in the online programming descriptions.

This commitment will be effective for full-length rated programming posted online after Dec. 1, 2012, on websites controlled by the undersigned broadcast network companies.

Broadcast network websites will also include or link to information about the ratings system."

The original TV ratings system was developed in the 1990s to alert families about a program’s content in response to congressional complaints about TV violence.

Some broadcasters, like NBCUniversal, already provide ratings information online, including its Hulu site. All of the networks will be making the rating info available for all full-length shows that stream on the websites they control. They have also committed to putting the ratings at the beginning of the shows and in online programming descriptions. Network websites will also link to ratings system info.

Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel called the agreement a good “first step.”

"We are fast moving to a world where our children's video viewing is not limited to the television screen--but is on any screen, at any time," said Rosenworcel. "The way we watch is clearly changing. But what is not changing is the need to provide parents with simple and honest means to monitor and [manage] their children's viewing. Today's announcement is a first step in the right direction.”

The NAB also supports the broadcast networks' initiative, according to Dennis Wharton, Executive Vice President of Communications. "This represents a voluntary, good faith effort from distributors of the most popular programming to empower and educate parents in monitoring the viewing habits of children."