Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Media Ratings in Today's Society

Have you ever been watching TV and seen this icon appear in the corner of your screen?

I’m sure you have as it is one of the most common ratings given to television shows by the Television Industry’s Revised TV Ratings System. However, do you know what it means? According to a study done in 2004 by The Kaiser Family Foundation, over half of our population cannot fully understand television show ratings. If people cannot decipher the advised restrictions of TV programs, are they even necessary? Are television stations taking each rating seriously and going out of their way to advise the public, or are they just following the rules given to them to avoid problems with the law? Do you believe advisories should be displayed more prominently and if so, how?

Click Here to see the ratings and their explanations!

Click Here to read a Maclean's article about the rating system in 1997!

With shows on the air like Two and a Half Men and Nip Tuck, the public is being exposed to more sexual content and profanity. In addition, Lost and Prison Break are examples of more violent and graphically explicit television. Will and Grace is known for stereotyping certain groups of people, especially homosexuals and the Simpsons displays disrespect towards elders. All of these shows are aired between 7-10pm and are available for anyone to watch.

According to Neilson statistics, the top TV shows for 12-17 year-olds in 2005 were: American Idol, Desperate Housewives, The OC, Will and Grace, The Simpsons and One Tree Hill.

Below are television clips veiwed by adolescents in 2005.

The OC -- Airs At 9pm, Rated PG

One Tree Hill -- Airs at 9pm, Rated PG

Will and Grace -- Airs at 9pm, Rated PG

Nip Tuck -- Airs at 10pm Rated PG14

The OC -- Airs at 9pm, Rated PG

Prison Break -- Airs at 8pm, Rated PG

All of the programs mentioned above are from night time television but what about day time soap operas? Shows such as Days of Our Lives, General Hospital and the Young and the Restless contain a huge amount of sex and violence. In just one episode, you can see a romantic sex scene along with someone being murdered. These soap operas run throughout the day and are available for young children to watch. Should there be a law enforced so programming such as these can only air late at night? What would be an ideal time?

Facts to think about!

On December 10th, 2003, Fox failed to bleep the f-word and the s-word during the Billboard Music Awards.

# of 2-11 yr olds Watching = Over 1 million
# of 12-17 yr olds Watching = Over 1 Million

· The average adolescent watches four hours a television a day.
· 44% of kids say they watch TV alone.
· Television alone is responsible for 10% of youth violence. – Leonard Eron, Senior Research Scientist at the University of Michigan

· 90% [of parents] say TV programs are getting worse every year because of bad language and adult themes in shows that air from 8 to 10 p.m.


Three months ago my fourteen-year-old bother bought an R-rated movie without any questions asked from the retailer. What policies do stores have to enforce the rating system? Are stores taking the ratings seriously or are they just looking for business? Whose responsibility is it to protect children from inappropriate content (the parents, the media producers, the government, etc.)?


Artist not available. “Desperate Housewives.” No date. Online image. Desperate Housewives. 25 April 2008. <>

Artist not available. “Facts and TV statistics.” No Date. 25 April 2008. <>

Artist not available. “Gay Kiss on TV.” No date. Online image. Will and Grace. 25 April 2008. <>

Artist not available. “Jack and Phyllis.” No date. Online image. Daytime Television. 25 April 2008. <>

Artist not available. “Nip Tuck Lesbian Scene.” YouTube. No Date. 25 April 2008. <>

Artist not available. “One Tree Hill – Leyton Scene.” YouTube. No Date. 25 April 2008. <>

Artist not available. “Prison Break Trailor.” YouTube. No Date. 25 April 2008. <>

Artist not available. “Ryan/Marissa – Sex Scene.” YouTube. No Date. 25 April 2008. <>

Artist not available. “Ryan and Trey steal a Car.” YouTube. No Date. 25 April 2008. <>

Artist not available. “Special Issues for Teens.” Media Awareness Network. No Date. 25 April 2008. <>

Artist not available. “Will and Grace.” YouTube. No Date. 25 April 2008. <>

Artist not available. “World’s Greatest Dad.” No date. Online image. The Simpsons. 25 April 2008. <>


Kayce said...

Just to let you know your pictures aren't showing on your page, so some people may not understand your first question.

Anyways, the T.V. ratings are only there to let people know what is "advised". It's not telling them that certain people can't watch it, it's more or less a warning of what's about to come. If people choose to watch the programs that aren't "directed" towards them, then that's completely fine. The ratings are only there so that people know, and so people understand what content is in the show, and T.V. shows are required to put them so that the viewers are informed. That's all they are there for, it's not that they aren't needed or that people aren't listening to it, it's just there to let people know what's about to come in a program.

- Kayce

Mr. A. Puley said...


You need to read the articles provided and look critically at the material. What Lauren is showing you is that people, especially parents, do not understand the meaning of the icons. If this is the case, then they cannot make educated and logical choices because they do not know what it being presented. Part of the issue may be that the codes and ratings are not published in the newspaper or TV guide and that people have to actively seek them out. Since a lot of people will not do this, then the effectiveness of the system is in question.

Also, the effectiveness of the system is linked to the usage of the V-Chip. A good question to ask would be how many parents / households use the V-Chip capability of their digital boxes / televisions to block questionable or unsuitable material.

Nickie said...

I think that the rating system is virtually useless unless people know what they mean, in which case not alot of people do, like Lauren showed. Like Mr. Puley said, people are also too lazy to go look up the ratings to see whats about to be shown on a particular show, and Parents are just letting their kids watch shows that are violent, or in cases buy violent movies. I know when I watch some shows (The Young and the Restless, for instance, and yes, I do watch it =)) I see the rating on the bottom of the screen, and only for about 3 seconds, and it's gone. This doesn't give people enough chance to see the actual rating, being wrapped up in the show and whatnot. There are some cases, though, like with The Simpsons, the rating is on the top corner for about 5 or 6 seconds, which gives people enough time to get the gist of what's going to be on the show and judge wether they should watch it or not, in which case they always DO watch it, showing that the rating just goes "whoosh" over their heads and out the window. I think if more parents in particular looked into the rating system, and enforced it, I think the following two events would occur:
1)The kids would become more whiney and more violent towards their parents for not letting them watch the TV show, and
2)The companies would lose ratings because about a quarter of their audience are pre-teens and younger teens who the show isn't intended for.

Although this system is non-existant in some ways, I think if the people who made the system enforced their own system more, we would have more kids watching educational TV and maybe a spike in children's marks... who knows??


tanja said...

i dont find it that hard to understand....:S i looked at the rating system, the first 3 are pretty much connected, basically just look for the Y, (and if i saw the y, id get the impression it was for younger audiences) and thwn the other ones are pretty straightoforward... i dont see why this shud be a problem

Janee=] said...

It's pretty horrible when I didn't even notice there were rating on the screen, therefore I think it's pointless. And as for taking the F-word out, if a kids walking up the street with it's mother, 8 out of 10 chances they'll here that word. It's not the greatest word, but it's to commonly used to pretend to our kids that it doesn't exist

Brandon said...

There seems to be a lot of mixed opinions on this. Kayce has said that everything is ok since the ratings are at the beginning of each show, but like Mr. Puley said, if you don't know what the ratings mean, it's worthless. I don't even know what everything stands for! I know the general things, but I do not know what the Y stands for.

If people do not learn about what the ratings are then they'll just watch shows/movies regardless of the intended age groups. I agree that not enough has been done to educate people about the ratings. They may be clearly visible, but a lot of people have no knowledge of them at all. I disagree with Jane. I know that that kind of language is really common in the world, but why expose kids to more. They might hear the swear word, but they're likely not going to start saying it just because they heard a stranger say it.

"10% of youth violence" is quite a bit. I'm sure that percentage would be lower if parents knew what the ratings meant. Then they would know that their children shouldn't be watching certain shows. Still, I bet that the rating system has helped a bit.

Kayce said...

The meaning of the ratings isn't hard to undestand, they all give descriptions and all you need to do is read. People don't choose to read them and that is their choice. Like I said, I believe that the ratings and their descriptions are there to let people know what they're about to see and they are suggesting a certain audience towards different media entertainments. The only place that ratings are used correctly is in the theatres, and even still, people will sneak into movies that they weren't allowed to view in the theatres. But as for home, ratings are just suggestions and descriptions of the media entertainment that you are about to view. If people are that concerned, then they would read the description of the ratings, and I'm sure many of them do.

forbzy said...

Most parents probably don't know everything they should about the rating system. I think that what parents allow their children to watch depends on the show and the childs maturity. I do think the people rating the shows are being careless and not giving some shows their appropiate rating. Alot of episodes of the Sopranos are only rated TV14 but i have a hard time beliving that it is suitable for a 14 year old kid.

Taylor mac said...

i dont understand what the confuesion is the t.v ratings are easy enough to understand but obviously under age people are going to be watching them but thats the parents responsibility but even they cant prevent that all the time unless you get passwords put onto your t.v programing, i do think that shows and movies are getting to gory and sexual i cant tell you how many times ive watched a movie with my parents and i full out sex scene comes on

Janee=] said...

I think we'd all be ok if we educated ourselfs on what the symbols ment, but we shouldn't have too, the companies should atleast send out a guide or something with a glossary in it.

mal =) said...

The ratings are completely ignored no matter how much media tries to push it on people. Evnen IF we ALL knew what the ratings meant, it would not matter.

People do not care about the rating system anymore because they can just simply go and watch it anytime they want anyways!

For example, my freind and I bought movie tickets for "Hairspray" we didnt like it, got bored, and then snuck into a rated "R" or restricted movie--"I Know Who Killed Me" It was pretty simple actually. Things like this happen all the time. We obviously knew we were not allowed into that movie because of the rating but we went anyways because we could.

I personally didn't know exactly what all the ratings meant and their definitions until this but even now that i read them and i am more educated on them, it didn't really effect me in anyway. I'd still go an watch things that i'm not allowed to.

Matt Dean said...

when i was younger my parents were pretty strict about stuff i i decided to watch t.v when they went to bed and i watched the exorcist when i was 4, my first zombie movie when i was 5 and first slasher flick when i was 7(i went through a zombie fase for 2 years). that made me desensitized to almost everything parents know what the ratings are and payed very close attention to them. they still do with my 6 year old brother but not as strict as they used to do with me. so really i don't know how parents can't tell what the ratings's fairly obvious. there are also children like me who wait till their rents go to bed and sneak out of their rooms to watch t.v.

Brandon said...

I partially agree with mal and partially disagree. There are people that care about the rating system. How do I know that? I know it because I'm one of them. I would never want to see an R-rated movie if I went to the movie theatre. My brother and sister are also like me. It really depends on your level of morality. Younger kids care much more about avoiding doing something immoral, if a parent told them they were never allowed to watch an R-rated movie they might listen. Teenagers tend to think on their own, so a lot of teenagers would not listen to their parents. I still think that knowledge of ratings (especially the ones that come on temporarily when a show starts) would reduce exposure to mature content for younger kids.

]ΛvΛЯіччΛ said...

Kayce said, “The meaning of the ratings isn't hard to understand, they all give descriptions and all you need to do is read,” That is not correct. Although sometimes there might be descriptions that go along with a rating, there are sooooooooo many programs that are on during a time when anyone can watch, where the only sign of a rating is a little square that shows up in a corner of the screen and if you don't know what that symbol means, then it means nothing.

I think a lot of times, the only reason programs have the ratings appear for a few seconds is because the law says so.

“The types of programs which must be classified are:
children's programming: any programming produced specifically for viewers from ages 2-12
drama programming: dramatic series and soap operas, made-for-television movies, comedy series
"reality-shows": defined as reality-based dramatic programming where real events are "re-created" or where coverage of real events are packaged for broadcast as entertainment rather than information/documentary programming
feature films: theatrical productions subsequently aired by television stations and networks

Exempt programming includes: news, sports, documentaries and other information programming; talk shows, music videos, and variety programming”
Really, many times I don't think companies want ppl to know the rating or see it because that would affect the # of ppl that watched. For example if certain programs were to have, say “TV-MA—MATURE AUDIENCE ONLY” displayed in the corner of the screen for the entire program, I'm sure parents would make sure that their young kids would definitely not see that program (I'm not saying that companies should display the ratings throughout the entire program, but i'm just saying that if parents knew, they would certainly pay attention.)

If companies really wanted, it would be pretty easy to make the public aware of what TV ratings mean, because it's reality that not everyone is going to find out for themselves what the ratings mean. Like Mr. Puley said, they could put the meaning of the ratings in newspapers, magazines, etc. Otherwise, it shouldn't even be a law to have the ratings appear for any program because then it doesn't serve much of a purpose for many ppl.


Media ratings have become a necessary for television broadcasting all over the world. There are a various amounts of ratings starting from all audiences to mature audiences only. This all depends on the content of the show, not many people realize but in Canada certain shows are showed within a certain time period. For example, during the day when children are watching television, broadcasters strictly show appropriate television shows for all audiences, and more of the mature content is played later at night when children are suppose to be sleeping and adults are wide awake. Yes, I believe that television ratings are necessary because they advise the audience of what type of content is based within the show before airing it. This is a perfect tool for parents which want their children to stay away from such content. Television show broadcasters are taking these ratings seriously because they are aware that not everyone wants to be exposed to such inappropriate material. I believe that advisories are displayed very often, mainly after every commercial break, it advises the audience verbally and displays on the screen what type of content is within the show. This is a perfect method to aware the audience of what they are going to view in the following television show. Now this has become a crucial part of today’s society as many things need to be rated before being released in today’s century.

]ΛvΛЯіччΛ said...

I did some research and found that the Canadian TV rating system is different than the American rating system. The symbols are different too. Lauren provided a link to the American symbols and the Canadian symbols can be found at this website:

I have to say that the Canadian symbols are a little easier to understand than the American ones.

jessica12312 said...

I completly agree that retailer's are in for the business and that they too likely don't understand the importance and advisories in the ratings. To them its just a few more dollars earned which is the prioraty of their business. Their is no financial damage to their business if they sell a few R-rated movies to some under-aged kids. Just as I myself have been admitted into some 18A and R-rated movies at the theatres without question. They were more than happy to allow me to see what i wanted to see, keep my business, and take my money.

Harinder said...

A lot of children and teenagers watch television in today’s society but parents often don’t notice what the rating of a particular television show is, so end up letting underage children or teenagers watch the age inappropriate shows. Or perhaps television stations aren’t considering the right age for the right content shown even when parents do follow the TV ratings. The television shows could be exposing too much sexual content, too much violence, stereotyping or even disrespect towards elders. All these factors could influence teenagers’ lives in different ways.
The rating systems can be useful tools to protect yourself and your family from unwanted media. If you know what the rating system is, what it is based on, and how it works, you’ll be making educated decisions regarding what you watch on television.

Jessen, Mark. What’s it rated? Understanding the Media Rating Systems.

]ΛvΛЯіччΛ said...

To answer Lauren's question from her initial post, I definitely do not think that there should be a law enforced to only air programs like soaps late at night because there are lots of programs that show adult content during the day, so they would all have to be moved to a later time. Since young kids watching soaps is not too enormous of a problem, especially since many soaps are on when kids are at skool, I don't think there's a need to move them.

Also, it's the parents' responsibility to protect their kids from inappropriate content, but that also means that the government needs to ensure that everyone understands the ratings and media producers need to be honest about the content and who it's suitable for.

As for retailers,i think it's the government's responsibility to ensure that they follow the ratings and don't sell things to kids when they're intended for an older audience because like Jessica said, "To them its just a few more dollars earned which is the prioraty of their business."

Matt Dean said...

There isn't a change of my opinion. i still think the t.v companies are letting people know what they are going to view and if you can't understand the rating's your fault, don't blame anything/one else for what your children watch.


After viewing my perspective on the current situation and reading Matt Dean’s comment I am fully supporting him with what he has said, television companies have done their job to rate their television shows to advise the audience. And if parents cannot keep their children away from such content, they must not blame the television broadcasting companies. They have done their job to aware the audience of what type of material is present within the show by advising the viewer ever commercial break, whereby parents at one point must realize what their children are watching and keep them away from such content, perhaps by using the content advisor which comes with their television nowadays.

Kayce said...

If you don't know what a symbol means, then if it means that much to you...look it up. This rating system isn't anything new, and even if you don't know what it is...ask. Not too hard bud.