TV Industry Agrees to Ratings Change

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: Caving into congressional pressure to rate its programs more specifically for offensive content, rather than simply by age groups, the television industry has reached an agreement with parents' groups and children's advocates on a new system to be announced today. Beginning October 1, programs will be rated V (for violence), S (for sexual content), L (offensive language) or D (suggestive dialogue) on screen. ABC, CBS, Fox and the major cable networks are expected to sign the agreement at the White House today, and have also agreed to add five non-industry citizens to the board that evaluates program ratings to see if they are applied correctly. Only NBC among the major networks has refused to cooperate, arguing that "there is no place for government involvement in what people watch on television." Arizona Republican John McCain, who has helped lead the charge for tighter ratings in Congress, said he expects NBC to accept the system by year's end. Maybe not. The Screen Actors Guild, the Directors Guild of America and the Writers Guild of America have threatened to file suit over the ratings, citing infringement of free speech. Vice President Al Gore, whose wife Tipper Gore led the fight to rate commercial lyrics, is expected to announce the accord today at the White House.