Media Ratings Systems: A Comparative Review*
During the last decade, media ratings have been increasingly utilized as a means of addressing concerns about "objectionable" or potentially harmful media content. Politicians, entertainment industry leaders, and media advocacy groups alike have turned to media ratings as a "middle ground" solution to such concerns, somewhere between direct government censorship and not addressing the issue at all. While movie rating systems have been in place for several decades, there is currently a trend toward adopting rating systems for other media -- such as television, video games, sound recordings, home video, and the Internet -- both in the United States and abroad. The advent of content blocking technologies, such as the V-chip, which require some form of attendant rating system to be useful, has further spurred this trend.
This chapter provides a survey of media rating systems in five countries: Australia, Germany, Great Britain, Sweden, and the United States. The survey reviews rating systems as they apply to various media, including film, videos, sound recordings, television, video games, film advertisements, and the Internet. The review briefly describes the historical origins of each rating system, its organizational structure, decision-making process, and the ratings themselves. The chapter closes with a discussion of the social impact of ratings, as well as the relative merit of various rating system designs.
The Australian Commonwealth Classification Board is a government agency that administers a national classification code for films, videos, publications, and computer