Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Effectiveness of Media Ratings Systems

Patrick Garry and Candice Spurlin, University of South Dakota Law School, have published "The Effectiveness of Media Rating Systems in Preventing Children's Exposure to Violent and Sexually Explicit Media Content: An Empirical Study," in volume 32 of the Oklahoma City University Law Review (2007).

Here is the abstract.

This article states that most forms of electronic media entertainment now carry some sort of voluntary rating system. Television, motion pictures, musical recordings, and video games are all subject to a self-imposed industry rating system. While these rating systems recognize that there is much media entertainment programming that is unsuitable for children; the imposition of these rating systems also serves a self-interest of the various media industries. By adopting some type of regulatory system, self-imposed though it may be, the media industry hopes to avoid or forestall more stringent or demanding governmental regulations.

The majority of parents strongly support the efforts of Congress to protect children from harmful and offensive entertainment speech. However, most efforts by Congress to regulate violent and indecent media programming are struck down by the courts as violating the First Amendment.

The study described in this article, although narrowly focused, suggests that the voluntary measures undertaken by the media are not nearly as successful in achieving their stated goals as might otherwise be claimed. The results of this empirical study indicate that children are indeed being exposed to various media products that, according to the rating system, are inappropriate for those children. Despite the media's continual promotion of its various rating systems, the present study suggests those systems may be ineffective at best. Moreover, the rating systems could actually cause harm in that as parents rely on them to prevent their children's exposure to unwanted media programming.

Download the paper from SSRN here.

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