FCC examining semi-universal rating system

US communications regulators to begin inquiry into a single system to assess content across TV, games, mobile phones; ESA calls it "a solution in search of a problem."

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The idea of a universal ratings system in the United States has been talked about for years, but now the idea has a chance to become more than just talk. According to a Bloomberg report, the Federal Communications Commission will open up an official inquiry to consider a single ratings system that would work across television, games, and cell phones.

The FCC's inquiry could lead to congressional action on a semi-universal ratings system.
The FCC's inquiry could lead to congressional action on a semi-universal ratings system.

Official word of the inquiry will come from a report to be released Monday, according to Bloomberg. That report was commissioned in 2007 by the Senate, which asked the FCC to look into technologies that would allow parents to block children's access to inappropriate content across a variety of media. Currently, TVs are equipped with V-chips that allow parents to prohibit access to TV programs of a certain rating, but many shows are still accessible through the Internet or cell phones.

In 2006, Doug Lowenstein, then head of the Entertainment Software Association, told a House subcommittee that universal ratings were a wonderful goal, but he added that "the devil is in the details." Since then, the gaming industry trade group's stance on the subject has apparently stiffened, as indicated by a statement provided to GameSpot by ESA senior vice president for communications and industry affairs Rich Taylor.

"The ESA appreciates the FCC and its important role," Taylor said. "However, the ESRB rating system is considered by parents, family advocates, the Federal Trade Commission, and elected officials as the gold standard in providing caregivers with the information they need to make the right choices for their families. Universal ratings will, in the end, only serve to confuse consumers, violate the Constitution's first amendment, and are a solution in search of a problem."

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