Protect the Public? Music, Film, and Television Ratings

The Recording Industry of America provides music ratings. “The Parental Advisory is a notice to consumers that recordings identified by this logo may contain strong language or depictions of violence, sex or substance abuse. Parental discretion is advised.”

Some retailers refuse to sell music that contains “explicit content” in their stores, such as Wal-Mart and Target, while others require an age requirement of 17 to purchase the music.  (Example: green-day’s albums American Idiot and 21st century breakdown)

Heavy metal, shock-rock and rap have received the most criticism and advisory labels, primarily for lyrics with graphic references to drugs, sex, violence, and “hate speech” aimed at women, minorities, gays and lesbians.     iTunes offers different versions of some songs : explicit, clean, and edited versions of songs. 



Film ratings are established by the Motion Picture Association (MPAA).

MPAA Ratings:

G- General Audiences, All ages admitted.

  • It contains nothing in theme, language, nudity, sex, violence or other matters that would offend parents whose children would view the movie.
  • Just because it is rated G, does not mean that it is a children’s movie.
  • There is no nudity, sex or drug use present.

PG- Parental Guidance Suggested. Material may not be suitable for children

  • Parents may consider some material unsuitable for their children.
  • There might be some profanity and some depictions of violence or brief nudity.
  • There is no drug use.

PG-13- Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13

  • Goes beyond the PG rating in theme, violence, nudity, sensuality, language, adult activities or other elements but it does not go as far as the restricted R category.
  • Any drug use will require at least a PG-13 rating.
  • More than brief nudity will require at least a PG-13.

R- Restricted. Children under 17 require accompanying parent or adult guardian

  • May include adult themes, adult activity, hard language, intense or persistent violence, sexually-oriented nudity, drug abuse or other elements

NC-17. No one 17 and under admitted

  • Is not “obscene” or “pornographic”
  • Content is only appropriate for an adult audience.
  • Can be based on violence, sex, drug abuse or any other element that most parents would consider too strong




The TV Parential Guidelines provides a system of classification or ratings for the content of television programs.

“The television industry designed a TV ratings system to give parents more information about the content and age-appropriateness of TV programs.  These ratings, called the TV Parental Guidelines, are modeled after the familiar movie ratings, which parents have known and valued for decades. They are designed to be easily recognizable and simple to use. The Guidelines apply to most television programs, including those directed specifically to young children. However, sports and news shows do not carry the Guidelines.  The Guidelines appear in the upper left corner of the TV screen at the beginning of TV shows, and often again after commercial breaks.”

The TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board is responsible for responding to public comments and providing information on the rating system.




Video Games:   The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) is the “non-profit, self-regulatory body that assigns ratings for video games and apps so parents can make informed choices. The ESRB rating system encompasses guidance about age-appropriateness, content, and interactive elements. As part of its self-regulatory role for the video game industry the ESRB also enforces industry-adopted advertising guidelines and helps ensure responsible web and mobile privacy practices under its Privacy Online program. ESRB was established in 1994 by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA).”

Are video games art? Some? All? Why? If they –or some of them–are works of art, then which ones specifically? If they are works of art, should they be rated and why?

Questions to consider:

Should there be film, music, and television ratings? Why/why not?  If so,  what should be the nature, cope, and purpose of the ratings?

Who should have the responsibility and authority to establish those ratings?

Using what criteria? How are those criteria justified?

What are the implications for banning/ censoring art when there are or are not ratings?

We have various groups including major companies in the music, film, and television industry providing ratings for music and film at many levels—-what are some examples of each and do you find these appropriate/inappropriate –beneficial/not beneficial and why?

We have had banning and censorship of film, music, and television here in the US–were any related to ratings and if so,  what are some examples of that and your views on that?