VP candidate's letter pushes universal code of conduct

WASHINGTON — Sen. Joseph Lieberman is getting after Hollywood again.

In a fiery letter, the running mate to Demo Presidential hopeful Al Gore wrote that Hollywood hasn’t gone far enough in eradicating the marketing of violent content to kids, and once again sounded the controversial call for a universal code of conduct.

Lieberman scolded virtually every sector of the entertainment industry in a mass mailing threatening government intervention if kids aren’t better protected from violent imagery. The missive was sent out from campaign headquarters to more than 50 execs in the movie, music, vidgame industries, as well as to theater owners and retailers.

“If your industries do not take the steps called for by the FTC within the next six months, and do not commit to uniform policies with real teeth, then we will call on the FTC to bring actions under the current false and deceptive advertising laws against companies that market adult-rated products to children,” Lieberman wrote. “If we find that the FTC lacks sufficient authority under those laws to respond to this problem, then we will recommend narrowly-tailored legislation.”

Leaders of the world’s most powerful entertainment companies received the rough-and-tumble letter, including five CEO’s: Walt Disney’s Michael Eisner, Time Warner’s Gerald Levin, News Corp.’s Rupert Murdoch, Viacom’s Sumner Redstone and Sony’s Howard Stringer.

Call for code

All this hinges, of course, upon the election of Gore and Lieberman to the White House. Indeed, Hollywood chalked up the timing of the letter to 11th-hour campaigning, and there was no surprise over Lieberman’s challenge.

Lieberman was careful to commend the steps taken by the entertainment industry, thus far, in response to the FTC report on marketing violent content to kids, but said the mark is still off target.

Included in Lieberman’s criticism was a new initiative put forth by the Motion Picture Assn. of America and signed off on by the seven major studios and DreamWorks. He said such a plan lacks real bite, since there is no enforcement mechanism.

Lieberman also called upon theater owners and retailers to do a better job of making sure kids don’t gain access to games or movies deemed inappropriate for young audiences.

“Parents need your help,” Lieberman said. “Ideally, that help would come in the form of higher standards for the products you make and lower levels of glorified violence and crude sexuality in our culture.”

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