Demystifying TV and Film Ratings: Making Sense of TV-14 vs. PG-13

Hey there! If you‘re a parent like me, you may often come across those mysterious letter ratings like "TV-14" or "PG-13" on shows and movies. They‘re supposed to signal what‘s appropriate for our kids, but what do they really mean? And what exactly is the difference between ratings used for television versus theatrical films?

In this article, I‘ll use my 15+ years working with media metrics to break down the history and meaning behind these ratings so you can feel empowered in your family‘s media choices. Buckle up for a wild ride through censorship, creative freedom, andConsistency!

How Did We Get Here? A Brief History of Ratings

It all started back in 1930 when moviemaking was completely wild. Distributors created something called the Motion Picture Production Code (AKA the Hays Code) to regulate "morality" standards. It was seriously strict – no visible couples in bed, no use of words like "virgin", etc.

Eventually TV emerged in the 1950s and was regulated similarly by the government. But by the 1960s social norms had relaxed considerably. Rather than outright censorship, the movie and TV industries shifted to using ratings systems instead as guidance.

Let‘s look at how these systems for Film and TV work…

Behind the Curtain: Who Makes These Ratings Decisions Anyway?

MoviesTV Shows
Decided by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA)Decided independently by each TV network
Uses consistent standards outlined in detailed Code of RatingsFederal Communications Commission (FCC) provides only broad oversight
Ratings determined during centralized review processJudgment calls made on a show-by-show basis

As you can see, movies go through a standardized process dictating ratings based on sexual situations, language, violence and more. But networks make their own calls – an NBC show could look totally different than an HBO show with the same rating!

Unpacking the Movie Ratings Process

The MPAA administers this rigorous procedure:

  1. Studio submits film to the Rating Board
  2. Board views the film
  3. Board votes on rating
  4. Studio can edit content and appeal
  5. Final rating assigned

This centralized system ensures consistency across all PG-13 films, R-rated films and so on.

What Happens on the TV Side?

  1. FCC provides general broadcast standards and oversight
  2. Individual networks decide which rating is appropriate per episode
  3. They display rating icon for first 15 seconds

See the difference? Film ratings go through extensive scrutiny while networks have creative liberty in TV land.

Comparing Standards: What Actually Counts as PG-13 vs. TV-14?

The two ratings target similar age groups and content:

Side-by-side ratings comparison

  • TV-14 tends to get applied more loosely than PG-13 – networks push boundaries further in implied sexual situations, edgier dialogue etc. before considering bumping up to the next restrictive rating.

  • Meanwhile, the MPAA draws Firm lines dictating what warrants PG-13 vs. R.

Let‘s examine this in action…

Case Study: Inconsistency in TV-14 Ratings

While beloved, Stranger Things contains scary scenes that push boundaries. Yet it carries the same TV-14 rating as relatively tame sitcom The Office. This demonstrates how Interpretation of standards varies wildly across networks.

In contrast, consistency is the MPAA’s bread and butter. All PG-13 films permit only so much profanity, violence and sexual references. R-ratings kick in for anything more graphic.

So Which Rating System Is More Effective?

  • The MPAA‘s strict centralized guidelines offer predictability for parents. You know exactly what content to expect.

  • But critics argue the MPAA is inconsistent itself and way too harsh on sexual vs. violent content.

  • Decentralized TV ratings allow more creative freedom and network discretion. Then again, confusion stems from inconsistencies in standards.

As with many things in life, there are reasonable counterarguments on both sides. But the maturity levels signaled by Film vs. TV ratings can‘t be directly equated. Analysis suggests Movie ratings provide clearer guidance for parents on average.

The Bottom Line for Families

Hopefully this breakdown demystified the meaning behind TV vs. movie ratings so you feel empowered interpreting media guidance for your family! Here are key takeaways:

  • MPAA sets consistent film ratings under strict centralized process
  • Individual TV networks control ratings looser standards
  • TV-14 tends to cover edgier content than PG-13
  • Movie rating dependability makes guidance more useful for parents

While imperfect, familiarizing yourself with these systems is vital for making informed choices about your kids’ media diets. We all want that next generation growing up sharp as a tack and steady as a rock.

Chat soon,

Chris is an entertainment researcher passionate about bridging gaps between media guidance systems and parental common sense.

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