For example, establishing a rating to determine whether a film should be released at all (or be played in theatres generally open to the public) has its correlative in the question of continued broadcaster responsibility: whether a given rating determines that a program cannot be shown; can only be shown after the appropriate watershed; or can only be shown on earmarked, encrypted, or subscriber channels. The study will return to this question when examining the relationship between rating and labeling systems and continued areas of broadcaster responsibility (Roth, 1996).
For television, a technical device may prove to be the desirable equivalent of the box office manager refusing admittance to minors. Theoretically (and it was subject to some manipulation), a rating or label was an instruction to the ticket seller to refuse entrance to persons for whom the film had been classified as inappropriate. Like the ticket seller, technical devices for parental choice act as a gatekeeper, with the capacity to determine, even if approximately, whether someone who wishes to gain access is qualified to do so.
The divined Golden Fleece of empowerment is a technical device that will allow a parent or guardian to control the television receiver so that programs deemed undesirable will not be accessible to a minor under their care. Obviously, a rating or labeling system alone, while beneficial, does not sufficiently empower modem parents who, for a variety of reasons, may not be in custody of the receiver at the time that a program decision is being made.
The V-chip, invented by a young Canadian engineer, Tim Collings, appeared to be the magic instrument for such parental empowerment. Originally, the V stood for viewer, as in viewer choice; later, it metamorphosed into V for violence, to mark the particular kind of undesirability that was the motivating reason for adoption and promotion of the technology. As the debate in Canada and the United States matured, the meaning of the V-chip was broadened to include its use in rating explicit sexual content as well as violent content (Paraschos & Paraschos 1997).
At any rate, the V-chip provided the internal mechanism that would allow a parent to act, in advance, on information that was embedded in the program. The technology promised to allow the parent to be an effective gatekeeper. The parent, using an instrument like a remote control, could direct the television receiver to block out programs that had particular triggering signals.
In 1997, in Canada, after a period of study and research in which the broadcast industry, other groups, and the Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission worked closely together, the V-chip and an accompanying labeling system was finally adopted (Action Group on Violence on Television 1997). In the United States, with the 1996 Telecommunications Act, Public Law 104-104, the Congress ordered that the V-chip or similar technology be installed in all receivers of a minimum screen size and urged the broadcasting industry to develop an accompanying rating system on pain of further federal intervention. In 1998, a self-regulatory system for labeling was found by the Federal