Hmm... interesting date for a News Release, isn't it? Especially since it's only March 20th here in Cambridge. Something smells fishy here, and it's not just the Boston harbor. Anyone seen any real confirmation on this? I'd be happy to try calling the contact listed at the end tomorrow ...

-- Jered Floyd, jered@mit.edu


Satirical News Release -- April 1st, 1996 -- April Fool's Alert

V-chip rating system extended to books

CLA endorses `V-barcode' plan

The Canadian Library Association today announced ...

The new book rating system, modelled after television's highly successful V-chip, has been dubbed the V-barcode, because each book will have a machine-readable "barcode" on the spine that encodes a rating of the book's contents on several scales: sex, violence, coarse language, drug use, religion, and `alternative lifestyles'.


(Dialing sounds, ... 1 905 525-9140 ...

Sexy voice: "Welcome to McMaster University. If you know the extension ..."

(Dialing sounds, ... 24689 ...)

... *RING* ... *RING* ...

Jones:
Hello? CLA media liaison here.

Floyd:
I'm calling about this News Release, ... I mean the V-barcode thing.

Jones:
Yes, how can I help you? Are you a reporter?

Floyd:
No, ... but I'm just curious, is this for real?

Jones:
What do you mean?

Floyd:
I mean, is the CLA really backing a rating system for books?

Jones:
Absolutely, we're quite excited about it. The Industry Minister, John Manley, likes the hi-tech angle, and he's going to announce a huge grant to develop the technology and create jobs. The Heritage Minister, Sheila Copps, says that it will help Canadian Culture because American-style books filled with sex and violence will become less popular. This will foster a renewed appreciation of Canadian literature.

Floyd:
Really?

Jones:
Sure! It's a win-win situation. Parents can make better choices about the books their children read; libraries get much-needed funding, and new jobs are created; and Canadian publishers get greater market share.

Floyd:
Oh, but isn't a government imposed book rating system ... ummmm, ... a kind of censorship? I would imagine ... I mean, ... isn't there a lot of opposition to this plan?

Jones:
Not at all. This isn't about censorship, it's about choice. Adults can borrow any book they choose, and children can borrow any book their parents decide is OK. ... Don't you think parents should have some say in the books their children read?? It's just common sense.

Floyd:
I guess so. ... But this seems to have happened all of a sudden. Why didn't I hear about this before?

Jones:
There's already been extensive consultation with anti-violence groups, victim's rights groups, church groups, and so on, ... you know, all the stake-holders that would be affected by the decision.

Floyd:
And authors? I mean, people who actually write books?

Jones:
They've all been made aware of the new rating scheme, and criteria that will be used, so they know in advance what kind of audience they'll reach. I mean, it's a matter of choice -- they can choose to write their books to reach a wider audience by eliminating gratuitous sex and violence. Which is what we all really want anyway, right?

Floyd:
A government rating scheme? I don't like the sounds of that.

Jones:
No, no, no. This is a "voluntary" rating scheme that will be developed by the Canada Council for the Arts and the Canadian Library Association. Of course, the government will have the entire process under "friendly surveillance" to ensure the rating scheme meets the aims of the project. Actually, it's really the brainchild of the new CLA policy director, Keith Spicer. Did you know he used to be with the CRTC?

Floyd:
This just sounds wierd. Are you sure this is for real?

Jones:
Huh? What's your fax number. I'll send you our detailed summary of the new proposal.

Floyd:
Area code 617 225-... oh, nevermind.

Jones:
Are you sure? I could have my secretary send it to you in a jiffy.

Floyd:
No, don't bother. Sigh. I gotta go now -- I've got a Digital System Lab in a few minutes.

Jones:
OK, thanks for calling. Bye.

Floyd:
Bye.

*CLICK*


EFC