A Reader and Author Respond to "Reforms for Rating Media: Disclosure, Not Censorship"

Elisabeth (Betsy) Gleckler, DrPH, CHES; Kimberly M. Thompson, ScD


January 25, 2008

To the Editor,

Ratings are only one approach to reducing the impact of modern commercial mass media on health.[1] Two other important steps that should be supported by public health and disease prevention professionals are:

  • Require all state education standards for elementary and middle school to have media literacy as a subject. Media literacy teaches how marketing operates by deconstructing the techniques of persuasion and showing how the money flows in marketing. It works best when youth are asked to produce their own media as a way to combat the messages that they see.

  • Questions about media need to be included in the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS); Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBS); Monitor the Youth, Household Survey, Systematic Instruction in Phoneme Awareness, Phonics, and Sight Words (SIPPS); Communities That Care; nutrition, tobacco, and alcohol; and other nationally sampled surveys. The questions should have consumption pattern questions on TV [television], Internet, gaming, blogging, radio, and movies, and should include attitudes about the trustworthiness or creditability of the media. Not only is the kind and amount of media consumed important, but one's critical capacity is also important. We need to have the health surveys also collect this important health risk -- media consumption.

Until Hurricane Katrina, I taught in a state university and a local public health school; every one of my classes was thick with how media consumption was a health risk. It remained a valued part of my classes, respected by my students. Rob Williams and Bob McCannon of the Action Coalition for Media Education, Sut Jhally with Media Education Foundation, and Stanton Glanz at UCSF [University of California, San Francisco] provided much of the course materials that I used. If not specifically, surely in spirit, they support the addition to your interest in ratings -- integrated media literacy in educational standards and measuring media exposure as a health risk.

Elisabeth (Betsy) Gleckler, DrPH, CHES
New Orleans, Louisiana


  1. Thompson KM. Reforms for rating media: disclosure, not censorship. MedGenMed. 2007;9:27. Available at: Accessed January 17, 2008.

Author's Response

I enthusiastically agree that we need more recognition of media as a health risk, media education, and data collection related to media consumption.[1,2] My editorial[3] focused on improving media rating information, which informs consumer decisions at the point of purchase, and I argued that providing clear, transparent, and accurate ratings information is essential to ensure informed choices in our self-regulatory system. Because the existing industry-funded media rating boards are the only ones with access to media products prior to packaging and only their ratings get incorporated into media products (electronically and on packaging), public health and disease prevention professionals should recognize that improving media rating information offers an important opportunity to prevent or reduce inappropriate media exposures. Other media rating resources also provide media content information after release of the media products,[4,5] but this information requires consumers to actively search the Internet for information that is generally not available at the point of purchase.

Kimberly M. Thompson, ScD


  1. Thompson KM. KidsRisk. Doing our best for children: a guide for evaluating hazard claims and setting priorities. April 2000. Available at: Accessed January 17, 2008.

  2. Thompson KM. KidsRisk guide on media and kids. Harvard School of Public Health. Available at: Accessed January 17, 2008.

  3. Thompson K. Reforms for rating media: disclosure, not censorship. MedGenMed. 2007;9:27. Available at: Accessed January 17, 2008.

  4. Kids-In-Mind. Available at: Accessed January 17, 2008.

  5. ScreenIt, Inc. Entertainment reviews for parents. Available at: Accessed January 17, 2008.

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