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New Campaign Addresses Violence in Media

PSAs reminds parents of viewing options

With some focus on violence in movies and TV shows following the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., entertainment companies unveiled a public service campaign designed to remind parents of viewing options, ratings system and content blocking technology.

The announcement of the campaign — which will include broadcast and cable advertising, redesigned websites and social media — comes amid pressure on the industry to address violent content, even as previous government efforts to regulate media mayhem have not survived First Amendment scrutiny in the courts.

But as has happened in past national tragedies involving gun violence, media conglomerates face criticism from D.C. figures who wield the bully pulpit, as well as parental groups who place pressure on advertisers.

The initiative, announced on Wednesday, is sponsored by the MPAA, the National Assn. of Broadcasters, the National Cable & Telecommunications Assn., the National Assn. of Theater Owners, the American Cable Assn., along with DirecTV and Verizon FiOS.

The campaign includes broadcast and cable advertising, which will remind parents where to find and how to use TV and film ratings systems, and how to use blocking technology. The advertising includes video spots previously created by the Ad Council, as well as other spots created by trade associations and broadcast and cable outlets. Movie theaters across the country also will run ad spots informing parents of the film rating system.

In addition, www.The TV Boss.org, a website that provides information on movie and TV ratings, parental control technology and “media literacy” has recently been redesigned, and the www.FilmRatings.com site has been relaunched. The coalition of trade associations also said that messages will appear in social media and other digital platforms.

Also announced was a public service campaign on mental health, including “creating a style guide to help educate journalists, television and film producers, directors and writers on mental health terminology.” Broadcasters, the Associated Press, the Entertainment Industries Council and other orgs are involved in the campaign.

“The public service advertising and collateral materials featured throughout the campaign will help consumers better understand the TV and film rating systems, remind them to ‘be the boss’ of their TVs, encourage them to consume media together as families, and help children understand the media they consume,” the orgs said in a statement.

Interestingly, the initiative does not include any trade associations for videogame companies. In January, when Vice President Joseph Biden met with representatives from entertainment, MPAA chairman Chris Dodd requested that the meeting with TV and movie trade association chiefs and other officials be separate from that of those from the videogame industry, noting the interactive nature of gaming.

As such, when President Obama unveiled his plans to reduce gun violence, he called for a Centers for Disease Control study of the impact of videogame violence on children, as well as the impact of more general “media images” on those who watch it.

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