FTC may pursue firms marketing violence to teens

Washington Post 
Tuesday, September 12, 2000
By Christopher Stern, Staff Writer

Federal Trade Commission Chairman Robert Pitofsky said yesterday that his agency is not interested in becoming a federal "thought police" but would consider legal actions against entertainment companies if they do not stop marketing violent movies, music and video games to children.

Pitofsky made the statement yesterday at a news conference where he released a 104-page report accusing entertainment companies of marketing violent material to children even when it is labeled as suitable only for mature audiences.

Pitofsky announced that he has directed his staff to look into the possibility that labeling a product as suitable for adults while advertising it to children may constitute an illegal "unfair or deceptive" marketing practice.

The FTC is not likely to take action if it sees "substantial improvement" in the marketing practices of the entertainment industry, he said.

The entertainment industry has long maintained that it does not intentionally market violent material to kids.

But the movie, music and video game executives have conceded that in marketing to adults, children are sometimes exposed to advertisements for violent products.

Hilary Rosen, president of the Recording Industry Association of America, a trade group that represents major record labels, blasted the FTC's conclusions, saying "parents, not the government, have the responsibility for guiding children toward music that is appropriate for a child's age and maturity."

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.), who has scheduled a hearing on the FTC report for tomorrow, had expected two volunteers from each industry covered by the report to testify.

Although the music and video game industries quickly came up with two volunteers, the movie industry came up with only one--Universal Pictures chief executive Stacey Snider. Yesterday, Snider also backed out.

A Universal Pictures spokeswoman said that Snider decided that it would be "inappropriate to be the only studio head speaking for the motion picture industry."

Among the report's findings are that movie studios are advertising R-rated movies on television during after-school hours, in high school newspapers and in magazines read by young teenagers. FTC investigators, examining internal marketing documents, also found evidence that movie studios conducted market research by showing R-rated movies to focus groups which included children under 17.