U.S. President Bill Clinton has proposed in his State of the Union Address a single rating system for television, the Internet and video games.
"Every parent I know worries about the impact of violence in the media on their children," Clinton said. "I want to begin by thanking the entertainment industry for accepting my challenge to put voluntary ratings on TV programs and video and Internet games. But frankly, the ratings are too numerous, diverse and confusing to be really useful to parents."
"So tonight, I now ask the industry to accept the First Lady's challenge to develop a single, voluntary rating system for all children's entertainment, one that is easier for parents to understand and enforce. If we take all these steps, we will be well on our way to making America the safest big country in the world," the President said in the televised address.
The statement will also warm the hearts of those pushing for a cohesive rating system to be set up in the UK. The system of ratings for computer games is unlikely to change as systems like ELSPA’s voluntary rating have been more or less accepted by even the most hardline campaigners.
A system for websites is more complicated. The majority of websites, especially those who are likely to be affected by any system, are in the US. American grades are generally much more relaxed than those found in the UK, allowing graphic violence to be seen at a younger age and real sex to be seen at all. Any rating system in the UK would have to be based on this American system, which would not make censorship campaigners happy at all.
A singe rating system is, however, reliant on the participation of browser manufacturers – unless the President feels it necessary to legislate. However, with both Microsoft and AOL (who own Netscape) wanting to keep the US government sweet at the moment, because of the anti-trust trial and the forthcoming investigation into the Time-Warner merger respectively, it is quite possible that these companies will concede to the President’s wishes and introduce the technologies to make this happen in the near future.