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Remarks Following a Briefing on the Television Rating System and an Exchange With Reporters

December 19, 1996

The President. Let me begin by saying that, as all of you know, that the Vice President and Secretary Riley and members of the White House staff and I have just met with Jack Valenti and Eddie Fritts and Decker Anstrom.

I want to thank the industry leaders for the television rating system which they have proposed today. Earlier this year, in February, I asked them to do this. They said that they would and that they would do it by January 1st. They are on time, and they have done what they said they would do. And they are going to give America's families more help in choosing appropriate television programming for their children.

Now, it is now appropriate to say that it is the personal responsibility of the family, first of all, to make use of this system. In a year, you know, the new televisions will have these V-chips, but for right now there will be other ways that the industry will work to make available the information to parents. They have to use it. They have to evaluate it, and then they have to communicate back to the industry how they feel. Do they like it; do they not like it; where is it inadequate; what suggestions they have for changes. As this system is implemented, the ball will plainly be in the court of the parents of America to make the most of this and to actually give feedback about it.

I would also like to say that at the request of the Vice President, the industry has agreed to make a systematic effort to get the continuous parental input and evaluation so that they will know how this system is going down, to what extent it's being used, and how it's being received by the parents of this country.

So I feel that this is a very important step forward. Over the next several months the industry has agreed that they will review their findings and the reactions to what they're doing. I think that's a very positive thing.

And I want to thank the Vice President for what he has done and ask him to say a word or two. And then if you have any questions, we'll try to answer them.

[At this point, the Vice President made brief remarks.]

Q. Mr. President, are you then leaving open the possibility that at some future time the administration might agree with the parents' groups who want this rated by content?

The President. No, what I—let me reformulate the question in a way—what I'm saying is, and I don't think the industry disputes this, I have no idea if this is the very best system that could be devised. I do believe it's a huge step forward over what we have now, which is nothing. And this issue has been debated, as I said the other day, for years and years and years. Now finally something significant has been done.

You know what the argument is. The argument is, should these rating systems be agerelated or should they be content-specific? If you think about the literally hundreds and hundreds, maybe thousands and thousands of programs that are on all the stations available, on all the cable channels, as well as all the networks every week, it seems to me that organizing them by age and then letting parents use the system and seeing how it works and giving feedback— if the consensus is reached down the road that there ought to be more content in the rating system, it will be a lot easier to do and to know what the content indicators mean once you group these programs in an age-based way.

So that's what—it was not for me to do. We've been very circumspect here in believing that this is not a Government function; this is a private function. And that's what we mean by—it's not up to—in my view, the only thing that I would condemn would have been bad faith. There has been no bad faith here; there's been an extraordinary effort.

The only point I'm making is, I don't have any idea if we can make it better. We might be able to make it better. The parents' group, the advocacy groups deserve to be heard and considered, but we are now doing what I think ought to be done. The industry kind of put the ball in the parents' court, and then it's going to systematically, rigorously ask them what they think.

So really I would say this is a great day for the parents of America, because what most parents want is more freedom to raise their children according to their own values and to balance the demands of work and childrearing. And this is a big step forward in helping them do that. Now they have to seize the opportunity. They have to give the industry feedback. And if we get strong feedback that something more could be done, I think it will be a lot easier to take the next step, because in the first instance these programs are going to be grouped in this way. So let's see what happens.

Hostage Crisis in Peru

Q. Mr. President, could you give us your evaluation of the hostage crisis in Peru at the moment?

The President. Well, obviously, we are keeping up with it very closely, and we're very concerned about it. We're concerned about all those who are held hostage. But it's been my experience in matters like this that—first of all, the Peruvian Government is doing its best and the President, too, to manage this difficult situation in an appropriate way. We are having communications with them. And I think the less any of us around the world say beyond that, the better, because we don't want to do or say anything that would complicate what is already a very difficult undertaking that we obviously hope will have a good outcome.

Second Term Transition

Q. Do you expect to wrap up your Cabinet announcements tomorrow?

The President. Well, we have, I think, four more announcements to make, and I think we will be making them in a timely fashion. But I don't want to go beyond that. We're working very hard on that, you know, every day we're working on it, and there's more to come.

Q. That means not tomorrow?

Q. You want to wrap up the week with some announcements, don't you? [Laughter]

The President. Like I said before, you know, this is a partnership between us. It's Christmas; it's down time. I need to give you something else to do and help you do your job, and it will help me do mine to get it out of the way. So I'm working on it. I want to do it as quickly as I can, but I don't want to tie my hands. You understand how this appointments process has developed over the last several years and all the things that have to be done before you can nail down these decisions. But we're working very hard on it, and I'll do my best not to disappoint you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 11:53 a.m. in the Oval Office at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Jack Valenti, president, Motion Picture Association of America; Edward O. Fritts, president and chief executive officer, National Association of Broadcasters; Decker Anstrom, president and chief executive officer, National Cable Television Association; and President Alberto Fujimori of Peru. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.

William J. Clinton, Remarks Following a Briefing on the Television Rating System and an Exchange With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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