The Federal Communications Commission is preparing to re-open the "V-chip" controversy, possibly expanding it from television onto new digital media platforms - a potentially explosive move touching on First Amendment issues.
In a report to Congress about the "Child Safe Viewing Act," due to be delivered at the end of August, the Commission indicated that it will soon open an Inquiry about use of "blocking" technologies to protect kids from unseemly content on TV sets, DVD players, set-top boxes, videogame devices and wireless handsets. When the Inquiry is actually launched, opponents will challenge the FCC's authority on media content management. The FCC will contend that the probe is aimed at obtaining better information for policy development.
Among the FCC's objectives is finding out why the decade-old V-chip and the accompanying ratings systems have been largely ineffective. Foes argue that the various rating systems for movies, TV shows and games discourage parents from using the V-chip blocking capability.