UPDATE, 1:25 PM: The networks’ online video ratings announcement looks like thin gruel to the Parents Television Council, which fights broadcast indecency. The TV content ratings system is “a facade” marred by “inaccurate and inconsistent ratings designated by the networks themselves with no accountability,” PTC President Tim Winter says. If each network ends up with a different system then it will “promote even more inconsistency.” The timing of the announcement just before the U.S. Supreme Court’s expected ruling on broadcast decency strikes him as an attempt “to sway the Court’s and the public’s opinion. This is too big an issue to continue playing games.”

PREVIOUS, 5:36 AM: It’s no coincidence that the carefully stage-managed announcement was released as we await the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on how to handle broadcast indecency. And it raises more questions than it answers. Basically it says that each network’s website will decide how it will use ratings information for streamed shows, but they’ll do something by December. Will any make it possible for parents to automatically block certain shows on their kids’ computers? We’ll see. Meanwhile, the usual suspects are right on schedule with prepared statements supporting the announcement. FCC chairman Julius Genachowski says he applauds “the networks’ commitment to empower parents.” No one will be shocked to learn that network-backed advocacy group TV Watch also likes the news. “Parents have overwhelmingly stated that they, not the government, are better at making decisions about what their children view on television” says executive director Jim Dyke. “By taking this step today, these networks are giving parents an expanded set of tools to help determine what their children watch based on their own taste, style and age.” Here’s the announcement:

Today the ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, TeleFutura, Telemundo and Univision broadcast networks announced a plan to provide additional ratings tools to give parents even greater decision-making power over their family’s media consumption.

Parents will now be able use the TV ratings system when children access broadcast television programs on the Internet. The networks are making the ratings information available for all full-length entertainment programs that stream on the websites that they control.

Each company will determine its own systems, and the networks have committed that the TV ratings will appear at the beginning of full-length video programs and also in the online programming descriptions. Network websites will also include or link to ratings system information. This commitment is effective for rated programming televised beginning December 1, 2012.