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TV Ratings System Explained

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Have you ever noticed the little black box at the corner of your screen when a show starts and wondered what it means? These TV Ratings, also known as TV Parental Guidelines, help parents filter the content their family watches.

TV Parental Guidelines were introduced as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and implemented the following year. A group of television industry experts and public interest advocates known as the TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board monitored them. Their goal is to be as consistent as possible when applying the TV Parental Guidelines.

The ratings are based on the guidelines for movie ratings, with a little extra info thrown in for good measure.


tv ratings explained

The large letters in the middle indicate the audience. These represent the group for which programming is most appropriate.

Y: All Children

This program is appropriate for all ages and may be specifically targeted at ages 2-6 and is not expected to frighten younger children.

Y7: Directed to Younger Children

This program is designed for children 7 and above, but it may contain some material that could scare or confuse younger children.

G: General Audience

This program is considered generally acceptable for all audiences. While it is not targeted at children, it contains little to no material that may be inappropriate for a younger audience.

PG: Parental Guidance

This program contains material that some parents may not find appropriate for young children. It will contain at least one instance of moderate violence, sexual situations, language or suggestive dialogue.

14: Parents Strongly Cautioned

This program contains material that parents may find unsuitable for children under the age of 14. It will contain at least one instance of intense violence, intense sexual situations, strong language or intensely suggestive dialogue.

MA: Mature Audience

This program is made specifically for adults. Letting anyone under the age of 17 watch it is highly cautioned. It will contain at least one instance of graphic violence, intense sexual activity or crude indecent language.


The smaller letters at the bottom are the content descriptors. These let you know why the show was given the rating so that you can better determine if the overall rating fits your family’s needs.

D: suggestive dialogue (usually means talk about sex)

FV: fantasy violence (used in children’s programming only)

L: course or crude language

S: sexual situations

V: violence


To learn more about the TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board and the Parental Guidelines ratings, visit www.tvguidelines.org.

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