Wireless Content Rating System Under Development

The Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA) is heading up an effort to develop a rating and filtering system for mobile content.

The wireless industry trade group is launching the initiative amid the growing interest that the adult entertainment industry, including Playboy, Hustler and Wicked Wireless, has shown in providing mobile content in the U.S.

Analysts said the wireless industry is trying to avoid both consumer and regulatory backlash with a rating system that will help parents control what their kids can see and hear with their cell phones.

Backed Into a Corner

Jupiter Research analyst Joe Laszlo told TechNewsWorld that if mobile operators hope to generate revenue from adult applications on wireless devices, then ratings and filtering systems must be in place to reassure people that only adults can access the content.

“As you watch the wireless industry target its marketing efforts more toward families, the industry realizes that it has to reconcile messages that say young people should have cell phones with messages that exploit the interest of some users for adult content on mobile devices,” Laszlo said.

Even with an iron-clad rating system in place, however, Laszlo said wireless carriers should tread carefully. Conservative consumers have a reputation for stirring up negative publicity around adult content in any medium.

CTIA officials did not return calls seeking comment.

Learning from Other Industries

Analysts said it’s difficult for service providers to take on the role of censor, though AOL and MSN have gained recognition for parental controls that effectively block young users from accessing inappropriate content on the Web or in chat rooms.

CTIA is working with the Recording Industry Association of America, the Entertainment Software Ratings Boards for games, and the Motion Picture Association of America, among others, to develop the rating and filtering system, which will also target song lyrics containing explicit kanguage.

“As movie clips and games become a bigger part of mobile content, it’s sort of an interesting question as to whether a special wireless-based rating system replaces those existing rating systems or if the wireless industry will try to make them work in tandem with each other,” Laszlo said. “Keeping it simple and making it easy for parents to say what kinds of content their kids should or should not have access to is really important here.”

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