In remarks before the National Association of Attorneys General 1999 Summer Meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, Federal Trade Commission Chairman Robert Pitofsky outlined his agency's study on the marketing practices of the entertainment industry. The FTC, in a joint effort with the Department of Justice, is conducting the study to determine whether and to what extent the industry markets violent material rated for adults to children. The study will focus on the movie, music recording and video game industries.
Pitofsky said that the study will examine the rating systems in each of these entertainment segments. "We plan to examine the ratings systems and report in some detail about their content, how they operate, whether they are effective," he said. Pitofsky also said the agency will look at marketing plans and consider whether the marketing and advertising of these products are either inconsistent with the ratings or designed to undermine them.
Beyond the rating systems and any codes, Pitofsky said the FTC will look at whether current self-regulatory restrictions are effective in ensuring that products rated as inappropriate for children are not sold to children.
Pitofksy emphasized that the initial and primary focus of the study is on industry self-regulation - what it is, how it works, and perhaps how it can be improved. Pitofsky also pointed out that the goal of the agency is to work with - not against - the entertainment industry. While the FTC has power to compel the production of information, Pitofsky said that the preference is for voluntary production.
In addition to outlining the scope of the study, Pitofsky told the Attorneys General that the agency will not judge the content of these products. "We understand that this is an area that impacts on freedom of expression and that there are appropriate limits on government action imposed by the First Amendment. We will not be the modern embodiment of thought police," he said. Nor is the agency embarking on a campaign of law enforcement, he said. "Our role is to study issues and report our findings to the President, Congress and the American public. We expect that our end product will be a report, not a cluster of charges alleging law violations."
"Our goal in this project is to work with the movie, music and video games industries, with consumer, parent and public interest groups, and with groups like NAAG, to find common ground in addressing what most reasonable people would agree is a serious problem in this country," Pitofsky said in closing.
Copies of Pitofsky's remarks are available from the FTC's web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC's Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357); TDD for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710.