Report targets film, music, videogame industries

The Federal Trade Commission is unhappy with the entertainment industry’s continued promotion of violent films, music and videogame industries to children.

In a report on the subject released Thursday, the agency said the three segments have made positive strides in shielding children from the marketing of mature products but cited room for improvement: The studios continue to intentionally market PG-13 films to children under 13, lack explicit standards to restrict this practice and release unrated DVDs.

FTC said the music industry, despite steps by some labels and retailers, lags far behind the others in providing parents with useful info to determine whether a labeled CD is appropriate for their children, or to encourage retailers to adopt and enforce age-based restrictions on access to explicit-content music. The violence report, the FTC’s seventh such study in the past 10 years, said both the videogame and film industries can do more to limit ad placement on websites that disproportionately attract children and teens.

The agency has consistently asked the industry to be more vigilant in three areas: restricting the marketing of mature-rated products to children, clearly and prominently disclosing rating information and restricting access by children to mature-rated products at retail. Its latest study credits the vidgame industry with outpacing the other two in all three areas.

FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz, a former VP of congressional affairs for the MPAA, applauded the studios for agreeing not to advertise R-rated films on TV programs where children make up at least 35% of the aud. Yet the standard “still allows marketers to place ads in media with substantial youth audiences in terms of both size and composition,” Leibowitz wrote in an accompanying statement.

In response to the report, MPAA VP of corporate communication Howard Gantman cited the film biz’s 40-year adherence to the voluntary ratings system and the accompanying advertising approval process. “We take seriously our responsibility to parents and, to that end, employ rigorous standards in reviewing content so that all advertising is suitable for the audience it is intended for — whether in the movie theater, on television or on the Internet,” he said.

The commission recommends several measures to better restrict the marketing of violent entertainment to children. Among them:

  • The film and music segments should develop “specific and objective criteria” to restrict the marketing of violent content to children. That includes restricting the marketing of PG-13 pics to young children directly and through tie-ins with foods, toys and other licensed products. All three segments should tighten restrictions on online and viral marketing.

  • All three segments should improve their display of rating information in advertising and packaging. The movie industry should place both the rating and rating reasons on the front of DVD cases and disclose rating information prominently in all advertising venues.

  • The film industry should “better inform parents about additional adult content in unrated DVDs and give parents a way to evaluate unrated versions.” It should consider re-rating DVD releases or, at a minimum, expand new disclosure rules for unrated DVDs.
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