MPAA Updates Rating System to Better Inform Parents

The MPAA’s new "Check the Box" rating awareness campaign will make it easier for parents to decide if a film is too violent for their kids. But the Parents Television Council thinks it doesn’t go far enough.

The Motion Picture Association of America this week debuted a new “Check the Box” movie rating awareness campaign aimed at helping parents make more informed decisions about appropriate content for their children.

The MPAA’s rating block will now be more prominent and include more information about why the film received the rating it did—particularly if the movie includes violence. A new description for a violent film could include “strong carnage” or “war violence,” according to an AP report.

Educational materials, including a video and posters, will be displayed in theaters across the country.

“Throughout its existence, the goal of the rating system has never changed: to inform parents and allow them to make their own decisions, considering their children’s sensibilities and unique sensitivities,” said Chris Dodd, MPAA chairman and CEO, in his remarks to CinemaCon in Las Vegas on Tuesday. “The campaign we are announcing today focuses on these descriptors, giving parents the information they need to navigate the rating system and movies coming to their theaters.”

John Fithian, president and CEO of the National Association of Theatre Owners, said in a statement that the changes would make the rating and advertising process “more transparent and user-friendly for parents.”

As part of the new program, trailers will have to be screened to make sure they are appropriate for the audience of a particular movie—ensuring that “no R-rated or red band trailers appear in front of children’s movies.”

Two representatives of the nonpartisan Parents Television Council spoke out in news reports criticizing the new campaign:

Tim Winter, president: “I am not moved, I think this is a distinction without a difference. A cynical view of the announcement today is, How can the MPAA protect themselves and continue a toxic level of violence, especially in PG-13 movies, while providing themselves cover from all the scrutiny?”

Dan Isett, director of public policy: “Certainly anytime there is more information for parents it’s a good thing. There’s nothing to criticize about that. Apparently there is no new information going to be given to parents; simply the existing information that we have had for a very long time repackaged in a different way. So while that is a step in the right direction it does not go nearly far enough to address issues.”


Daniel Ford

By Daniel Ford

Daniel Ford is a contributor to Associations Now. MORE

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