Thursday, January 24, 2008

Video ratings

A recent question on WISPUBLIB mailing list, and my response, reprinted here for those who do not read WISPUBLIB (and for my own archival purposes). The question:

Hello All,

Does anybody have a specific policy in regards to minor access and R rate DVDs?

This should be on somebody's FAQ...

Appleton Public Library does not have a policy, but we have discussed with our board, and I have a bunch of thoughts:
  • Parents are responsible for their children
  • MPAA ratings are a marketing tool for the U.S. motion picture industry.
  • Libraries differ from movie theatres (and video stores) in many essential ways, including how we select and distribute titles and the economics of the distribution transactions.
  • MPAA ratings do not include TV shows, older films, a great many foreign films, and many direct video releases. They are unreliable and somewhat arbitrary.
  • Libraries are ill-advised to make policies based on these ratings, as this does not necessarily protect children from exposure to violence or sexuality in media, but creates a false sense of security while sacrificing access.
  • Making public library policy based on ratings constitutes prior censorship based on decisions that have nothing to do with a given film's suitability for library use or the values of any particular family.
  • You can effectively give parents the opportunity to restrict their children's access to materials, or types of materials, for those families who choose to do so, without implementing this arbitrary censorship on the entire community.
  • Where ratings exist, one should make this information available in the catalog and from helpful staff, in order to help families who want this information in making viewing decisions.
  • "You can decide for your kids, but let me make the decisions about my kids."
  • Libraries can best support the decisions of families and intellectual freedom for the community by avoiding making policy using or based on ratings
  • I wouldn't say this is the only right way to do things; these things often come down to local politics -- your mileage may vary, so you pick your battles & you do what works for your community.

1 comments:

colleen said...

Obviously I agree with you Terry that allowing the MPAA to dictate your library's policy is a slippery slope. Their practice gives preferential bias to major film companies and the smaller indies get penialized or threatened with the dreaded NC-17 rating (a kiss of death if you want any major theatres to carry your film). When you watch what is allowed as R in some of the popular "horror porn" such as _Hostel_ it is really upsetting to think that this film was allowed through as an R when a film that has less financial backing was forced to alter their vision or get NC-17. Also, often the things that are cut to comply with ratings are sexual in nature while scenes with extreme violence are allowed through.

I actually have personally conservative tastes in a film's sexual content, but as I continually watch horrible violence glorified and given PG-13 to R ratings I have to question whether my personal standards have been imposed by years of watching things based on the MPAA system.