The TV Parental Guidelines system was first proposed on December 19, 1996 by the United States Congress, the television industry and the FCC, and went into effect by January 1, 1997 on most major broadcast and cable networks in response to public concerns of increasingly explicit sexual content, graphic violence and strong profanity in television programs. It was established as a voluntary-participation system, with ratings to be determined by the individually-participating broadcast and cable networks.

It was specifically designed to be used with the V-chip, which was mandated to be built into all television sets manufactured since 2000, but the guidelines themselves have no legal force, and does not apply to news or sports programming, thus precluding networks like CNN, Fox News Channel, ESPN and Fox Sports Net from applying the ratings system, along with the majority of infomercials (which are classified the same as regular commercial break advertising, which also is not rated); however recently, this rule has stopped applying to some entertainment news and newsmagazine programs such as Extra, Access Hollywood and Teen Kids News, which all now carry TV-PG ratings.

Ratings Edit


(All children)

Whether animated or live-action, the themes and elements in this program are specifically designed for a very young audience, including children from ages 1 to adult. These programs are not expected to frighten younger children. Examples of programs issued this rating include Sesame Street, Miffy & Friends, Dora the Explorer, Blue's Clues, Go, Diego, Go!, The Backyardigans, Wonder Pets, Wow Wow Wubbzy, Yo Gabba Gabba, Ni Hao Kai Lan, The Bobby Sedita Show and Max & Ruby. Additionally on some TV-Y programs, generally those airing on over-the-air broadcast networks ranging from NBC to This TV to TBN, an E/I logo will be shown through the program's entirety if it contains educational content. TVY does not exclusively have to be age 1–6. Some programs such as Arthur and Reading Rainbow designed for children over the age of 7 may have this rating if it lacks violence and other inappropriate content.


(Directed to children 7 and older)

These shows may or may be inappropriate for some children under the age of 7. This rating may include crude, suggestive humor, mild fantasy violence, or content considered too scary or controversial to be shown to children under seven. Examples include Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, Johnny Test, Ren & Stimpy, Hey Arnold!, The Wild Thornberrys, SpongeBob SquarePants, As Told by Ginger, Schoolhouse Rock! and such live-action children's shows as Ned's Declassifed School Survival Guide, Goosebumps (when aired on the FOX network), Are You Afraid of the Dark, and Saved By the Bell. Doug, Rocko's Modern Life, Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, The Angry Beavers, Rocket Power All Grown Up!, ChalkZone and CatDog also uses the TV-Y7 rating on some other episodes.


(Directed to children 7 and older [fantasy violence])
Black TV-Y7-FV icon

When a show has noticeably more fantasy violence, it is assigned the TV-Y7-FV rating. Action-adventure shows and anime such as Digimon, the Pokémon series (after being transferred to Cartoon Network, where on Kids' WB it was formerly rated TV-Y) and the Power Rangers series are assigned a TV-Y7-FV rating.


(General audience)

Although this rating does not signify a program designed specifically for children, most parents may let younger children watch this program unattended. It contains little or no violence, no strong language and little or no sexual dialogue or situations. Networks that air informational, religious programming, sports, how-to content, or generally inoffensive content (such as the Food Network, HGTV, The Weather Channel, and Disney Channel) or older archive programming (such as Game Show Network's shows, classic reruns, and the classic cartoons shown on both Cartoon Network, Disney Channel, and Boomerang) usually apply a blanket TV-G rating to all of their shows (unless otherwise noted). Some tween and teen shows, such as A Walk In Your Shoes (The N airings), Radio Free Roscoe (The N airings), Even Stevens, Sabrina the Teenage Witch.


(Parental guidance suggested)

This rating signifies that the program may be unsuitable for younger children without the guidance of a parent. Many parents may want to watch it with their younger children. Most television shows for adults and teens have this rating. Various game shows and most reality shows are rated TV-PG for their suggestive dialogue, suggestive humor, and/or coarse language. Some documentaries such as the ones on the History Channel that feature content that may frighten people or concern people will be rated a PG rating, especially with references to catastrophic events. Some prime-time sitcoms such as Everybody Loves Raymond, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, The Simpsons, Futurama (on Fox and adult swim airings), Beyond the Break (The N airings), Degrassi: The Next Generation (The N), and Seinfeld usually air with a TV-PG rating. Recently, Cartoon Network has been using the PG rating to rate shows that may contain suggestive dialogue, crude humor, or scary elements, such as Total Drama Island, 6teen, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Gundam Wing (on Cartoon Network, Goosebumps was rated TV-PG for scary/disturbing content). Also, on Nickelodeon, Invader Zim is also rated TV-PG when uncut. The uncut MTV airings of The Ren & Stimpy Show are rated TV-PG. Many feature films rated PG and some movies originally rated PG-13 and R are edited for content in order to earn a TV-PG rating when shown on broadcast and cable television. On August 1, 2008, WWE programming went to this rating to appeal to a wider range of sponsors. Many music videos are also given this rating, though some music videos have content which is a lot higher than what the rating indicates, including "Video Phone" by Beyoncé Knowles, "Telephone" by Lady GaGa, Hotel Room Service by Pitbull and "Rude Boy" by Rihanna.

The TV-PG rating may be accompanied by one or more of the following sub-ratings:
  • D for some suggestive dialogue
  • L for infrequent coarse language
  • S for some sexual situations
  • V for moderate violence


(May be unsuitable for children under 14 years of age)

Parents are strongly urged to exercise greater care in monitoring this program and are cautioned against letting children of any age watch unattended. This rating may be accompanied by any of the following sub-ratings:

  • D for intensely suggestive dialogue
  • L for strong coarse language
  • S for intense sexual situations
  • V for intense violence

Many programs that air after 9:00 pm are rated TV-14, including late-night staples like The Tonight Show, Saturday Night Live, and many dramas. Certain PG-13 or R-rated feature films are rated TV-14 when edited for broadcast. Adult-oriented cartoons, such as South Park (when edited) and Family Guy have been given the TV-14 rating. Anime series Bleach and Inuyasha alternatively switch between a TV-PG and TV-14 rating.

Live programming like televised awards ceremonies, concerts, and some specials are sometimes issued a general TV-14 rating, because of the possibility that profanity, nudity, or suggestive dialogue may occur.

Many adult animations such as South Park use the TV-14 rating for re-runs on daytime syndication television, but it is confirmed with heavy censorship (such as mild swearing being censored, disturbing scenes being censored, etc.) in order for it to get that rating.


(Mature audience — may be unsuitable for children under 17)

A TV-MA rating means the program may be unsuitable for those below 17. This rating was originally TV-M in early 1997 but was changed because of a trademark dispute and to remove confusion with the ESRB's "M for Mature" rating for video games. The program may contain extreme graphic violence, strong profanity, overtly sexual dialogue, very coarse language, nudity and/or strong sexual content. Although not a very large number of shows carry this rating, The Sopranos is a popular example. The film Schindler's List was the first network TV airing to display this rating, and the pilot episode of the CBS police drama Brooklyn South made this series the first network TV series to display the rating. Original programming airing in the late evening on some cable networks generally will carry this rating. The sitcom Jenny had high amount of sexual content in the show. This rating may be accompanied by any of the following sub-ratings:

  • D for intensely suggestive dialogue
  • L for strong coarse language
  • S for intense sexual situations
  • V for intense violence

The implications of these ratings, particularly the TV-MA rating, vary greatly depending on the situation. For example, South Park, which airs on Comedy Central, generally contains censored language even though it carries a TV-MA rating. Yet other TV-MA programs on Comedy Central (including the late-night "Secret Stash" airings of films such as South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, any movie directed by Kevin Smith, the Jackass films and uncensored airings of stand-up comedy specials and the Comedy Central Roast series) have no restrictions on language. Language may still be censored by a network or air completely unfiltered, depending on several factors, including creative network choices, or to appeal to advertisers leer y of placing spots on a TV-MA program. Adult Swim shows (particularly The Boondocks, Moral Orel, Xavier: Renegade Angel, and later seasons of Robot Chicken and Aqua Teen Hunger Force) are rated TV-MA. Other shows that are frequently rated TV-MA include FX's original programs, such as Nip/Tuck, The Shield, Rescue Me, Sons of Anarchy and Justified.

Used sub-ratingsEdit

The ratings are sometimes accompanied by sub-ratings, depending on the amount of objectionable content in the program.

Rating Violence (V) Language (L) Sexual content (S) Dialogue (D) Fantasy violence (FV) Educational and informational (E/I)
TV-Y (unused) (unused) (unused) (unused) (unused) (exclusive use)
TV-Y7 (unused) (unused) (unused) (unused) (exclusive use) (exclusive use)
TV-G (unused) (unused) (unused) (unused) (unused) (exclusive use)
TV-PG (used) (used) (used) (used) (unused) (exclusive use)
TV-14 (used) (used) (used) (used) (unused) (unused)
TV-MA (used) (used) (used) (used until 1998) (unused) (unused)

Broadcasters sometimes mistakenly apply this subrating; however, it is not officially used.

For the first 15 seconds of every rated program lasting a half-hour or less, a large rating icon appears in the upper-left hand corner of the screen. It was much smaller until June 2005 and only appeared on-screen for 7.5 seconds. For every rated program running an hour or longer, a rating appears in the upper-left hand corner of the TV screen at the beginning of each half hour.

Starting in June 2005, many networks now display the ratings after every commercial break. ABC was one of the first television networks to display the program's rating after every commercial break in addition to at the beginning of the program. Rating icons formerly appeared in the 4:3 safe area, even with a 16:9 HD-designed presentation, but have moved into the top-left corner of the 16:9 picture as time has gone on.

Design variationsEdit

Regularly, the Helvetica font is used for rating icons with either white type on black blackground, or black type on white background, like the icons from top section.
30px-ABC HDTV icon ratings

ABC's rating icon for some programs.

  • ABC's ratings icons do not use the regular Helvetica font, instead going with Calibri, usually for promos, and a sans-serif font usually for programs-- with black type on a white background, and are larger than the voluntary specifications.
  • CBS and The CW only show the icon at the start of the program, and use the original smaller icons with the Helvetica typeface, with white type on a black background.

    FOX's rating icons.

    Fox networks ratings icons are colored blue with white type, use a clockwise transition animation, and are larger than the voluntary specifications, appearing at the start of any live action program and, as of April 9, 2007, after every commercial break (the complete 15 seconds of the icon is shown as close to the half-hour as possible during an at least hour-long program; five seconds of the icon, without the clockwise transition, is shown after every other commercial break). Black and white icons are retained for animated programs on the network and were also utilized by the former 4Kids TV weekend children's block (which as the block was a time-buy by 4Kids, was rated by that company instead of Fox, although Fox standards and practices still applied input into 4Kids programming). The clockwise animation is in use with these as well, with 15 seconds of rating at the top of the 1st and 3rd segments, and (as of March 24, 2007) five seconds of rating at the top of the 2nd and 4th segments. In the late 1990s, when the ratings system was first introduced, 4Kids TV predecessor Fox Kids aired brief notices before a particular show containing the rating and informing the viewer that it's there "so you can have Fox Kids family fun!". However, Fox's related cable networks, FX, Fox Reality, Fox Movie Channel and National Geographic Channel, do not use the clockwise blue ratings, instead opting to use a ratings icon with white text on black, which at the start of a show will take up 1/12th of the screen, as per specifications used by the cable industry. After each commercial break it is shown at the original smaller size (excluding Fox Movie Channel, which does not show commercials). During ABC Family's stint as Fox Family, used the black icons. On February 10, 2015, the text was updated to a different font as of today.
  • 50px-TV-PG NBC

    NBC's TV rating icons until Fall 2009

    NBC's ratings icons are translucent, and appear on the screen after a colorful transition, matching the network's current image branding, except for the promos which they make the rating icons opaque and no effect is used. NBC, Telemundo, and their related cable networks (except USA Network and Sci Fi Channel, which were acquired by the network in the 2004 NBC Universal merger) did not use the D-L-S-V subratings until 2005.
  • PBS TV-Y icon

    PBS's TV rating icon that is sometimes used

    PBS' ratings icons vary by each program's producers, though usually the regular icons are used, with black Helvetica type on a white background, but sometimes the ratings from American Public Television might be used, which the font isn't Helvetica. PBS and the network's digital cable networks/digital broadcast subchannels also opted out of the D-L-S-V subratings until 2005.
  • Syndicated programming often will show ratings icons drastically different from the original icons, in a different font (such as Tahoma), with a translucent or no background, letters with drop shadowing, or which match up with the title card or closing credits font for the program. This owes to the fact that the individual programs' production companies, not the broadcasting stations, apply the ratings. One syndicated game show, Jeopardy!, shows its rating after the introduction of the contestants, instead of at the very start of the program, likely for aesthetic purposes.
  • Fox, the networks of NBC Universal, and MyNetworkTV show the icon within the video area instead of the normal placement on a 4:3 scale whenever letterboxed programs are aired.
  • Turner Classic Movies uses the television ratings system to rate films not covered by the MPAA film ratings system, which went into effect for films released after October 1968. As the network or the film's distributor rates the film on the TV ratings system instead of the MPAA's, some conflicts occur between the two ratings systems, such as a film that might rate an MPAA G earning a TV-PG, and some cases of an MPAA PG movie earning a TV-14 rating on TCM. This was a result in the changes of the level of content in the rating system. Most G-rated movies back in the late 60s and early 70s have content equivalent to PG and PG-13 today. Some movies rated PG in the 70s would earn a rating of at least PG-13, or possibly R, under current rating standards. Some MPAA rated films may also have a separate TV rating from TCM to clarify content further within the D-L-S-V subratings. MPAA and TV ratings on TCM are presented before the program, in a separate segment, in a similar manner used by most premium movie channels.
  • All Turner Broadcasting System networks, owned by TimeWarner, air the ratings icons after each commercial break, with a larger version of the icon at the top of the program (sometimes to conceal a rating previously applied by a different network). The rating icons are black lettering on a translucent white background. Lifetime, which is partially owned by Disney, previously did this. In 2016, Cartoon Network and Boomerang use the Avenir Next Rounded typeface when TBS still uses the Helvetica typeface.
    Disney TV-G icon

    The Walt Disney Company's rating icon

  • Disney Channel, Toon Disney and Freeform, all owned by Disney-ABC Television Group, also air the ratings icons after each commercial break, with a larger version of the icon at the top of the program. Their rating icons are white lettering (set in Tahoma) on a solid multi-shaded gray background. A similar icon, which was much smaller with the text set in Futura, was used until June 2005. (SoapNet used a version with a black square, instead of gray).
  • Viacom's ratings depend on the networks; since March 11, 2017, Nickelodeon and Nick at Nite use a large square-shaped icon with transparent lettering on translucent white background with a "sliding" effect when the rating stops displaying; TV Land also uses a small square-shaped rating,
    Nick TV-G 2017

    Nickelodeon's TV-G rating icon.

    but black in color. Paramount Network uses a tiny white rating icon; Comedy Central, MTV, Logo and VH1 use its own type of translucent rating with a thin Helvetica type; Since May 5, 2014, Nicktoons uses a black square icon with the Gill Sans Bold typeface in white. BET uses a translucent black icon; CMT uses a white jumbo icon with margins or borders; since February 22, 2011, Nick Jr. and Noggin use a large TV-shaped icon with transparent Houschka Black lettering on translucent white background with a "turn-off" effect when the rating stops displaying; Since August 12, 2018, TEENick and The N use a large white HD-square with a small and jumbo typeface; MTV Classic and on-demand services use the rating design used on all Viacom channels since June 2005, which is a variant of the rating system's initial Franklin Gothic default type at the beginning of the show that covers 1/12th of the screen and the smaller default Helvetica ratings after each commercial break.