TV Ratings & Channel Blocking

TV Ratings

The television industry has voluntary ratings for TV programs that appear in the corner of your television screen during the first 15 seconds of each television program. The ratings are also included in many magazines that give TV ratings and in the television listings of many newspapers. Ratings are given to all television programming except news, commercials, sports, and unedited movies on premium cable channels.

  • Display the ratings labels and their meanings
  • Read our fact sheet on V-Chip and the TV Ratings
  • Visit the TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board web site
  • Visit the Coalition For Independent Ratings Services (CFIRS) web site

The V-Chip

The V-chip is a technology that lets parents block television programming they don't want their children to watch. The V-Chip electronically reads television-programming ratings and allows parents to block programs they believe are unsuitable for their children. (Ratings appear in the corner of your television screen during the first 15 seconds of a program and in TV programming guides). This rating is encoded into the program, and the V-chip technology reads the encoded information and blocks shows accordingly. Using their remote control, parents can program the V-chip to block certain shows based on their ratings.

Cable "Lockbox" and Set-top Boxes

Cable subscribers may request a "lockbox" from cable operators to prevent viewing any channel on which objectionable programming may appear. Cable operators are required to make lockboxes available for sale or lease to customers who request them. Lockboxes can also be purchased from other commercial distributors.
The Communications Act includes a provision that is designed to increase control over the programming coming into a subscriber's home. Section 640 requires a cable operator to scramble or block fully the audio and video portions of programming services not specifically subscribed to by a household. The cable operator must fully scramble or block the programming in question upon the request of the subscriber and at no charge to the subscriber.
Some cable analog and advanced analog set-top boxes give customers the ability to block channels of programming. To block the channel, the viewer enters the correct Personal Identification Number ("PIN") code using the set-top's remote control or keypad.
Digital set-top boxes provided by cable operators have parental control capabilities that allow customers to block programming based on several criteria. While not all boxes have the same features, a digital box might allow viewers to block programming based on time and date, channel, program title, TV rating and/or motion picture rating.