prescriptive TV-PG14 standard that the show contained "material that many parents would find unsuitable for children under 14 years of age." By contrast, if the mostly descriptive Recreational Software Advisory Council rating system (reviewed above) had been applied to the Ellen episode in question, the kiss in question presumably would have received a "1" level nudity/sex rating,95 just as any heterosexual kiss would have (a kiss is still a kiss). It is ironic that during the debate over the creation of the TV rating system, many within the television industry argued inexplicably that descriptive ratings would have a greater potential chilling effect on the range of program content than age-based prescriptive ones, though the arguments and Ellen example above indicate that the reverse is true.
While media rating systems are increasingly being used in many countries as a vehicle for addressing concerns about violent and other potentially problematic media content, this choice is not without its costs. A society that values freedom of expression should be extremely cautious about assigning warning labels to ideas, regardless of whether those ideas come in the form of political rhetoric or fictional stories. While ratings are preferable to direct government legislation of media content, they are by no means an ideal social policy. The cost to freedom of expression involved in rating media content can be limited through the use of rating systems that maximize description and minimize judgment. Ratings that simply provide descriptive information can enable individual parents and other consumers to make media consumption choices based on their own values and tastes, an approach far superior to those rating systems that attempt to make judgments about which kinds of entertainment or information are "appropriate" for other people's consumption.