Ms. Koplovitz is on the committee of broadcast, cable and production executives developing the ratings system that will enable the congressionally mandated V-chip to be implemented. Although advertisers spend billions on TV advertising, they are not represented on the committee.
NOT ADVERTISER ROLE
"They really shouldn't be," Ms. Koplovitz said. "It's not their responsibility to develop the ratings."
However, the USA Networks chief said advertiser input is important and she will solicit their opinion.
"I'm concerned about the utilization of the ratings system" by pressure groups, she said during a panel discussion last week in New York at the annual convention of the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau.
The ratings and the V-chip worry her, Ms. Koplovitz said, because they could make letter-writing and online campaigns against advertisers easier to implement-pressure groups could just target shows with certain ratings.
REAL ISSUE CENSORSHIP?
Like other programming executives, Ms. Koplovitz fears the real issue behind the ratings and the V-chip is censorship, not parental guidance.
Ms. Koplovitz said she is more interested in talking to advertisers than ad agencies because "ultimately, it's the advertiser who makes the final decision about what programs to advertise on."
Besides hearing from advertisers herself, Ms. Koplovitz said, it may be a good idea for the committee that's developing the ratings to call a few advertisers in to one of its meetings "so all the members can hear their input."
EFFECT ON ADVERTISERS
Another fear she has is that the ratings could make it easy for some advertisers to abandon their practice of screening all episodes of a program and deciding on a case-by-case basis what shows to sponsor.
"If a show has a rating that an advertiser even fears could trigger a letter-writing campaign, maybe they will decide just to stay out of all programming with certain ratings," she said. "That would not be good."
The committee already has come to some general conclusions about the ratings.
Unlike the Canadian model, the U.S. ratings will not likely be specific about sex or violence. Following the motion picture ratings model, the TV ratings will be more directed to age. For example, a program might be rated PG-13 or PG-15 without any elaboration as to sex or violence.
Broadcasters reportedly agreed to come up with a voluntary ratings system as a quid pro quo for Congress not passing legislation charging them spectrum fees-that is, charges for sending TV signals over the airwaves.
NO QUID PRO QUO
"Wish that there had been a deal to be cut," said Marty Franks, senior VP at CBS, in remarks made recently at the TV conference of the Association of National Advertisers.
Washington-based Mr. Franks, the network's point man on the ratings discussions, said the spectrum fee issue certainly played a part in the broadcasters deciding to agree to devise a voluntary ratings system but that Congress wasn't offering a do-the-ratings/no-spectrum-fee deal.