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PRODUCERS AGREE TO TV RATINGS

TV producers and programmers have reluctantly agreed to help develop a ratings system to monitor sex and violence on TV, the man heading the effort says.

More than 55 TV producers, guild and network representatives met behind closed doors Monday to discuss the system with Jack Valenti, the president of the Motion Picture Association of America who is overseeing development of the system."There was a lot of opposition to any ratings system of any kind," Valenti said after the two-hour meeting. "When you're dealing with the creative community . . . I expect that."

But he predicted that most in the TV industry will support ratings that are "meaningful and useful to parents."

John Wells, producer of the top-rated series "ER," said there is a widespread worry that ratings will lead to a backlash against programs.

"The idea that there can be hard lines of delineation in which pressure groups can say we're going to boycott every show that has a specific rating is frightening," Wells said.

The meeting also included producer Steven Bochco ("NYPD Blue") and CBS programming head Leslie Moonves.

The industry has complained for years that ratings would cut into revenues and violate free speech.

But pressure is coming from Washington: A new telecommunications law includes a provision for a federally designed, voluntary ratings system if a satisfactory one isn't in place by February 1997.

The industry hopes to have its ratings plan ready by January 1997, Valenti said.

Some TV creators had complained about being excluded from the ratings development process; the meeting appeared to be an effort to answer those complaints.

Industry executives have already agreed the new system will be voluntary and will allow for producers and distributors to rate their own programs.

Much remains to be decided, including specific classifications and how ratings are communicated. Valenti said he hopes to see them included in TV program guides, in newspapers and on the air.