April 17, 2006 4:00 AM PDT

The second coming of the V-Chip

For all the hubbub about the sex- and violence-blocking V-Chip in the late 1990s, it's hard to find someone today who actually uses it to filter out television programs.

It's been 10 years since Congress required television makers to include the V-Chip in their TVs as a result of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. It's been six years since all televisions 13 inches or larger were required to include a V-Chip. But a 2004 study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation in 2004 found that only 15 percent of parents have ever used the V-Chip. The Ad Council put the usage figures even lower--at 8 percent.

Though it's difficult to find more recent data, most experts figure V-Chip usage hasn't changed much. And few expect that to change following a March 15, 2006, deadline that required television makers to include a second generation of the chip in digital TVs.

The new V-Chip isn't really a chip. It's software that blocks programs that stray outside a ratings boundary set by the television user. The new technology is designed to accommodate changes in the ratings standards used by broadcasters to rate their content. The analog V-Chip was designed for the technology used to communicate the ratings when the technical standard was drawn up in the late 1990s.

The new V-Chip standard is set to arrive as the U.S. is making the forced march to digital television, said Tim Collings, director of research and development for TriVision, a Canadian company that owns patents for both V-Chip technologies. On March 1, 2007, all televisions and set-top boxes will be required to have digital tuners, and therefore will need the new version of the V-Chip.

To promote the new V-chip, the Ad Council is preparing a renewed advertising campaign for later this year. But if parents today are blocking content from reaching their children, most appear to be using the TV's power-off button rather than chip technology.

The new V-Chip technology works by decoding ratings data transmitted along with the signal and then blocking content above a certain rating, such as TV-14 for content deemed unsuitable for children under the age of 14, or TV-MA for content deemed appropriate for mature audiences only. Using a password-protected screen reached from the menu of V-Chip-equipped TVs, parents can set boundaries for the type of content or channels their children can view.

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As of March, new TVs with digital tuners must include a new open version of the V-Chip, according to an FCC representative. The new chip can respond to the current ratings systems used by broadcasters as well as new ratings systems from various family organizations such as the Parents Television Council or Common Sense Media. This will also allow parents to set their preferences for acceptable levels of sexuality or violence in television programs and have shows that meet those guidelines sent directly to them.

By next year, that requirement will extend to all devices capable of receiving a digital television signal, including set-top boxes and DVD players. That sets up a nice revenue stream for TriVision, which holds patents to the technology needed to implement the V-Chip in the way specified by the government. TriVision's software costs TV manufacturers about $1 to $1.25 per set, the FCC representative said.

CONTINUED: The role of parents…
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22 comments

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It doesn't allow me to block what I really want blocked.
I don't care about naked body parts on TV.

I don't want my children watching violence or sit-comms with smart-*ssed kids.

Unfortunately the V-Chip is useless for me.
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Reply Link Flag
that's why
you'll have a choice of different sources for ratings with the second generation V-chip. Just find a like-minded NGO with rating systems that are similar to yours and you're set.

My big complaint is that ads aren't rated. Some of the stuff in movie trailers and ED commercials is way inappropriate.
Posted by sanenazok (3449 comments )
Link Flag
It doesn't allow me to block what I really want blocked.
I don't care about naked body parts on TV.

I don't want my children watching violence or sit-comms with smart-*ssed kids.

Unfortunately the V-Chip is useless for me.
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Reply Link Flag
that's why
you'll have a choice of different sources for ratings with the second generation V-chip. Just find a like-minded NGO with rating systems that are similar to yours and you're set.

My big complaint is that ads aren't rated. Some of the stuff in movie trailers and ED commercials is way inappropriate.
Posted by sanenazok (3449 comments )
Link Flag
V Chip is useless
It filters all content including what I want to watch and is a frustrating to disable when switching to "adult" mode. It is much easier to just not let the kids have control of the remote, and monitor their use of the TV.

V Chip is for bad parents that use the TV as a baby-sitter, and don't monitor what their kids are watching. Its better for kids to see something bad, and have a parent there to explain and discuss, than just block the content and never know what they are watching.
Posted by umbrae (1073 comments )
Reply Link Flag
American Idiot
I use it to block American idiot.
Posted by paulsecic (298 comments )
Link Flag
V Chip is useless
It filters all content including what I want to watch and is a frustrating to disable when switching to "adult" mode. It is much easier to just not let the kids have control of the remote, and monitor their use of the TV.

V Chip is for bad parents that use the TV as a baby-sitter, and don't monitor what their kids are watching. Its better for kids to see something bad, and have a parent there to explain and discuss, than just block the content and never know what they are watching.
Posted by umbrae (1073 comments )
Reply Link Flag
American Idiot
I use it to block American idiot.
Posted by paulsecic (298 comments )
Link Flag
Less than worthless
Oh boy, a new V-Chip. Just the thing for a population that that 1. doesn't believe in displining their childred, and 2. is too stupid to set the clock on a vcr.

This is a perfect example of a "government project"
Posted by rcrusoe (1305 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Less than worthless
Oh boy, a new V-Chip. Just the thing for a population that that 1. doesn't believe in displining their childred, and 2. is too stupid to set the clock on a vcr.

This is a perfect example of a "government project"
Posted by rcrusoe (1305 comments )
Reply Link Flag
v-chip never did what I wanted
I wanted to restrict all after-school TV access.
V-chip never did that. If consumers are not consulted, then why bother?
Posted by pengel (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
RE
That was never the purpose of V-Chip. It's impossible to please everyone, if they tried we wouldn't get anywhere. They do make seperate modules designed to control TV viewing, and they aren't expensive.
Posted by unknown unknown (1951 comments )
Link Flag
v-chip never did what I wanted
I wanted to restrict all after-school TV access.
V-chip never did that. If consumers are not consulted, then why bother?
Posted by pengel (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
RE
That was never the purpose of V-Chip. It's impossible to please everyone, if they tried we wouldn't get anywhere. They do make seperate modules designed to control TV viewing, and they aren't expensive.
Posted by unknown unknown (1951 comments )
Link Flag
How to raise your kids with tv
The V-chip tries to block programs by their rating, which as some of the naive commenters here have discovered, is like doing surgery with a blunt instrument. TV-14 ratings are assigned for a lot of different factors, some of which you may not find offensive.

Rather than use the V-chip you also have the option of deleting channels from your menu through your tv's built-in software, ("What? how do I do that?") which I think is more effective because the type of programming you find on any given channel is usually consistent and you know if you approve. You'll know if the kids have figured out how to bypass your deletions--they'll always forget to re-delete it when they're done.

And in line with the last comment I'll suggest how you make most effective use of your tv for improving the quality of your family's intellectual life: block out all cable channels except History, Discovery, PBS, National Geographic, CNN, Weather, Travel, Food, Animal, TBS, AMC, and perhaps, some personal vice like vh1 or Outdoor channels and a local ABC/CBS affiliate. All else is dreck. If your imagination can't relate to the quality programming in this group then the problem is the low quality of your imagination/education and not the quality of the tv environment...
Posted by Razzl (1318 comments )
Reply Link Flag
How to raise your kids with tv
The V-chip tries to block programs by their rating, which as some of the naive commenters here have discovered, is like doing surgery with a blunt instrument. TV-14 ratings are assigned for a lot of different factors, some of which you may not find offensive.

Rather than use the V-chip you also have the option of deleting channels from your menu through your tv's built-in software, ("What? how do I do that?") which I think is more effective because the type of programming you find on any given channel is usually consistent and you know if you approve. You'll know if the kids have figured out how to bypass your deletions--they'll always forget to re-delete it when they're done.

And in line with the last comment I'll suggest how you make most effective use of your tv for improving the quality of your family's intellectual life: block out all cable channels except History, Discovery, PBS, National Geographic, CNN, Weather, Travel, Food, Animal, TBS, AMC, and perhaps, some personal vice like vh1 or Outdoor channels and a local ABC/CBS affiliate. All else is dreck. If your imagination can't relate to the quality programming in this group then the problem is the low quality of your imagination/education and not the quality of the tv environment...
Posted by Razzl (1318 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Looks like 15 precent too many people.
Seriously, why would you even use this? It's not even practical. I mean, it should give you the option to block out cetain shows, not whole ratings. Gah. I'm glad our TV's don't have V-chips in them, they're pointless beyond anything.
Posted by Pokchu (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Looks like 15 precent too many people.
Seriously, why would you even use this? It's not even practical. I mean, it should give you the option to block out cetain shows, not whole ratings. Gah. I'm glad our TV's don't have V-chips in them, they're pointless beyond anything.
Posted by Pokchu (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I'd like to block religious and shopping channels.
Then, it'll be of use to me.
Posted by extinctone (214 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I'd like to block religious and shopping channels.
Then, it'll be of use to me.
Posted by extinctone (214 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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