Is it time to rate online video?

As the parent of two children (soon to be three) and knowing the types of films that I would produce if I could – a question came to my mind while doing the dishes tonight.

Earlier I had been engaged in working on a script for an online short that I think will just be fan-damn-tastic, but admittedly would garner quite the R rating if it were to be shown in a movie theatre.  Knowing that, it makes me wonder how far it’s going to get around Youtube before someone finds it offensive.

Logically, that lead my thoughts down the path of questioning.  Should the online media industry be rating itself?

Again, I’m a parent.  My kids use the net.  My 15 year old has rarely been shielded from anything (ever), so there’s not too much worry there.  But my son who is quite a young age probably shouldn’t be entirely exposed to some of the grit and grime that is available on the net today.  All of these videos can be pulled up without warning to the viewer or parent and consumed almost instantly over broadband.  Do we have a responsibility for rating that content?

Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m the last person in this world that would advocate censorship.  But I do think it’s a good idea to let people get clued in to what they’re about to be exposed to.  The MPAA sets a poor model for rating films in my opinion.  The ESRB seems to have a somewhat better reputation, but I’m sure that if I spent some time reading up on gaming circles there are people who just absolutely cannot stand the ESRB.

Ultimately, it’s a fallacy to ask any one group or agency to deem what is appropriate or inappropriate content for the entire world; not that it stops the Americans from trying to levy content controls.  But whatever.  I don’t pretend to think it’s a good idea that some group based in the US or France, for that matter, deciding what is appropriate for my 4-year-old son to watch.

I think I would propose a standards organization that would define criteria and some time of letter system that is able to quickly point out that there is harsh language, sex, brutal violence and strong gore in a short film, for example.  Utilize the standards process that has… cough… worked so well for so many other Internet-related activities in the past… well, okie, depends on who you ask… but you get the idea.  Have a standards council made up of multiple countries that agree to define criteria by which responsible-minded producers can rate their own media and provide a slate containing that information.  I’m sure that later down the line, media players and web browsers could understand that rating and adjust the viewing of the content appropriately.  I’m well aware that there is a content rating system for web pages, but it is poorly used and implemented and I suppose I would rather see it embedded in the media file itself rather than on a web page or in the HTML code.

Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?  As I move forward with trying to start my own media company, I will certainly be including some type of information about the content of the videos.  Because honestly, some of the videos we plan to produce are not fit for a 4-year-old to consume.

Interesting thoughts, nonetheless.  Wonder when a real discussion will form on this subject, since hardly anyone reads this blog?