RIAA exec sez new reforms not taken into account

WASHINGTON — Anticipating that the music biz will once again be stung by the Federal Trade Commission for not doing enough to protect kids from explicit lyrics, Recording Industry Assn. of America’s Hilary Rosen went on the offensive and sent FTC commissioners an 11th-hour letter saying the agency is drawing on “misunderstandings and misperceptions.”

On Wednesday, the FTC is skedded to release a major report card on how well the entertainment biz has done in reforming marketing practices. The recording industry is expected to take the heaviest hit, while the movie and vidgame industries are expected to draw solid marks (Daily Variety, Nov. 30).

In her Nov. 30 letter to FTC commissioners, a copy of which was obtained by Daily Variety, Rosen said the agency has failed to take into account a number of reforms the music biz has adopted since the FTC released its initial September 2000 report.

“That said, unfortunately, it also is clear to me that after some of our meetings, and after adopting the steps I have outlined above, there remain some misunderstandings and misperceptions about the recording industry’s Parental Advisory Program,” Rosen said. “The fact that many of the documents reviewed by the commission were created prior to the September 2000 report may have added to this misperception.”

Also, Rosen said the FTC tried to compare the advisory labels to the movie ratings system, which doesn’t work, since the movie ratings are age-based. She said the labels don’t judge whether or not a certain song is appropriate or inappropriate for kids; rather, the labels are a “heads up” notifying consumers that a song contains explicit content.

“It serves to empower parents so that they, not the recording industry, can make their own determination about what content is appropriate for their particular child,” Rosen said in the letter.

Also, the vast majority of recordings are available in an “edited” version, which are advertised by record companies. Under a new RIAA policy, the actual cover of a recording is labeled to indicate whether it is edited.

In considering where ads appear, the FTC has told the music biz it is concerned that younger audiences are still being targeted. Not so, says Rosen.

“In the majority of cases, the advertising vehicles mentioned by some of you in our meetings are not expressly aimed at child audiences, but rather cover a broad market demographic, many of which have a median age of over 18. Advertising two versions of a sound recording to mixed-age audiences is far different than expressly marketing explicit material to children,” Rosen said.

Rosen also outlined various reforms adopted over the last year, which include making sure labels are permanently affixed.The industry also has issued several mass mailings explaining the label program to the public.

The FTC could not be reached for comment.

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