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Monday, September 11, 2000
FTC Blasts Media for Marketing to Youth
2:52 PM | Toby Allen | Comment on this story

A report released by the Federal Trade Commission earlier today blasts the media industry -- a blanket term which lumps together film, music and video games -- for marketing their products directly to children who are restricted from consuming those products. Although the ratings systems for music, film and video games are currently voluntary, and there is no penalty for marketing violent products to minors, this ruling could focus the spotlight even more sharply on an issue which is sure to become a political 'football' punted back and forth during the U.S. election season.

Political figures such as President Clinton, Presidential candidates Al Gore and George W. Bush and New York Senate candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton also weighed in with their opinions on this report, calling for a shift in industry policy to end these aggressive marketing practices, although no politician has threatened actual legislation along those lines. Here is an excerpt from the report:

The report did not examine the link between violent media
and violent acts but said scholars generally agreed exposure to
violent materials alone was not a major contributor.

``It is nevertheless a valid cause for concern,'' Pitofsky
said. ``Exposure does seem to correlate with aggressive
attitudes, insensitivity to violence and an exaggerated view of
how much violence occurs in the world.''

The Motion Picture Association of America has consistently
disputed the impact of violent media on children, pointing to a
drop in crime rates in recent years as proof. Officials of the
association said they would respond to the report in testimony
to Congress on Wednesday.

The FTC report examined the marketing plans and programs
for films, video games and music. Pitofsky said he found some
of the content of video games he tested ``astonishing.''

Of 44 movies rated R -- not suitable for people under 17 --
the FTC found 80 percent were marketed to youngsters. One
document stated that the goal was to find the ``elusive teen
target'' audience while another spoke of targeting youth groups
such as the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.

Of 55 music recordings with ``explicit'' content labels, all
of them were marketed to children under 17, the report said. In
electronic games, of 118 with a ``mature'' rating for violence,
70 percent were targeted to youths under 17.

With the increasing power of consoles and home computer systems, and the resulting increase in the realism of the graphics they can display, this promises to be a lasting debate well into the future. Watch for internet pornography and electronic privacy to also become hot-button issues in a political arena in which morality will be a primary focus. Read the rest of the Reuters report for more details.

U.S. Report Says Violent Movies, Games Target Kids

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