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FTC Says Adult Fare Still Marketed to Kids

Media: Study says advertisers continue to push violent content despite a wake-up call in 2000.

June 29, 2002|EDMUND SANDERS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Nearly two years after federal regulators blasted entertainment companies for marketing violent movies, music and video games to kids, the Federal Trade Commission said Friday that media companies continued to advertise adult-oriented fare in music and magazines and on television programs popular with children.

"The commission finds little change in the practices of all three industries with regard to advertising violent R-rated movies, M-rated games and explicit-content-labeled recordings in media popular with teens," according to the 62-page report.

The latest report represents somewhat of a standoff between the FTC, which continues to prod the media to adopt tougher marketing restrictions, and entertainment companies, which say they have gone as far as they are willing to go in limiting violence.

The original September 2000 report--requested by then-President Clinton--sent shock waves through Hollywood and Washington by revealing that movie studios had tested R-rated movies on 10-year-olds and advertised during Saturday morning cartoons.

Despite the commission's disappointment, the watchdog agency continues to oppose new laws or regulations. "Because of 1st Amendment concerns, we continue to think the best way to go is self-regulation," said Richard Kelly, the FTC attorney in charge of the report.

The agency's credited the movie and video game industries for halting some of the more egregious practices and voluntarily agreeing to curtail ads for R-rated films and mature-rated games on television programs for which more than 35% of the viewers are under age 17. They also have stopped ads in magazines reaching high percentages of children.

But the FTC says such thresholds do not go far enough because many TV programs, such as "7th Heaven" and "Real World," have large teen audiences.

For the third time, the FTC singled out the music industry for showing "virtually no change" in its ad practices and for refusing to adopt any age-based marketing restrictions. The report did, however, find that the industry was doing a better job at labeling its "explicit content" stickers on CDs and was encouraged by the plans of music conglomerate BMG to begin offering more specific labels, using such content descriptors as "violent" or "sexual.".

Hilary Rosen, head of the Recording Industry Assn. of America, said the industry believed that parents were satisfied with the labeling improvements adopted by most major music companies.

But Rep. W.J. "Billy" Tauzin (R-La.) said he was deeply disappointed by the music industry's lack of progress. "I wonder how high we need to turn up the amp before the music industry hears what Congress, the FTC and concerned parents have been saying," Tauzin said.

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