Studios admit violent films targeted children

WASHINGTON — Hollywood studio execs testifying Wednesday before a congressional committee admitted efforts to market violent films to children, offered their mea culpas and promised their allegiance to new policies rushed into action.

The eight studio execs were summoned by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who grew infuriated two weeks ago when not one rep from the studios showed up for a hearing on a controversial FTC report charging that Hollywood wrongly markets violent movies to younger audiences.

One by one, execs from each of the seven majors and DreamWorks, told the commerce committee that the studios have signed off on an initiative announced on the eve of the hearing by Motion Picture Assn. of America prexy Jack Valenti. The MPAA plan provides more information to parents about ratings, as well as prohibiting the inclusion of unaccompanied kids in test screenings and the attachment of certain trailers to G-rated movies.

Mel Harris, prexy of Columbia Pictures’ parent company Sony, called efforts to advertise a violent PG-13 film on the kids-oriented Nickolodeon cable channel “a judgment lapse.”

McCain and Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) told the witnesses that the MPAA initiative wasn’t good enough, and repeatedly praised the Walt Disney Co., Warner Bros. and Fox Filmed Entertainment for augmenting the MPAA initiative with additional measures, such as a pledge by Warner Bros. not to advertise movies rated R for violence in media buys where 35% or more of the audience is under 17.

Disney prexy-chief operating officer Robert Iger surprised even his colleagues by asking that the MPAA’s 32-year-old rating system be extended to TV and the music and vidgame industries, so there is one simple system.

MPAA Jack Valenti, who McCain refused to let testify Wednesday, said Iger’s plan is no good, even if it is supported by various lawmakers and the FTC report. He said it would impossible to apply the rating system to music and TV, and that the net effect would be the eventual dissolution of the MPAA’s rating scheme.

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