Study Finds Companies in Motion Picture and Electronic Game Industries Have Demonstrated Some Progress Since the September 2000 Report; Recording Industry Has Not Visibly Responded
The Federal Trade Commission today released a follow-up report to its September 2000 Report, Marketing Violent Entertainment to Children: A Review of Self-Regulation and Industry Practices in the Motion Picture, Music Recording & Electronic Game Industries ("the Report"). The follow-up report is in response to a request from Chairman John McCain, Ranking Member Ernest Hollings, and Senators Max Cleland and Sam Brownback of the Senate Commerce Committee that the Commission examine whether the entertainment media industries continue to advertise violent R-rated movies, explicit-content labeled music, and M-rated electronic games in popular teen media and whether they are including rating information in their advertising.
The follow-up report indicates that the motion picture and electronic game industries have "made some progress both in limiting advertising in popular teen media and in providing rating information in advertising." However, it states that "the music recording industry, unlike the motion picture and electronic game industries, has not visibly responded to the Commission's report; nor has it implemented the reforms its trade association announced just before the Report was issued." The follow-up report states that "vigilant self-regulation is the best approach to ensuring that parents are provided with adequate information to guide their children's exposure to entertainment media with violent content" and therefore encourages the industry to expand efforts to implement the reforms announced following the Report and to go beyond those reforms to meet the Commission's recommendations.
According to FTC Chairman Robert Pitofsky: "Because government intrusion in decisions about content raises important First Amendment concerns, self regulation continues to be the preferred solution to problems in this area. Although much remains to be done, the follow-up report illustrates that the motion picture and electronic game industries have improved and enhanced the self-regulation of their marketing practices. Unfortunately, the music industry response, at least so far, has been disappointing in its failure to institute positive reforms to its self-regulatory structure."
The follow-up report makes the following key findings about the marketing of violent entertainment material by the industry:
- Movies: The study found virtually no advertisements for R-rated movies in the popular teen magazines reviewed. A spot-check of movie trailer placement revealed general compliance with the industry's commitment not to run trailers for R movies in connection with G- and PG-rated feature films. The motion picture studios now routinely include reasons for ratings in their print and television advertisements. Further, at least three-quarters of the official movie Web sites reviewed included the film's rating, the reasons for the rating, and links to sites where information on the rating system may be obtained. However, the Commission found more remains to be done, as ads for R-rated movies continue to appear on television programs most popular with teens, and the rating reasons in ads were usually small, fleeting, or inconspicuously placed.
- Music: The Commission found advertising for explicit-content labeled music recordings routinely appeared on popular teen advertising programming. All five major recording companies placed advertising for explicit content music on television programs and magazines with substantial under-17 audiences (in some cases more than 50% under 17). Furthermore, ads for explicit-content labeled music usually did not indicate that the recording was stickered with a parental advisory label: only 25% of the print ads, 22% of the television ads, and about half of the 40 official recording company or artist Web sites reviewed showed the explicit content label or otherwise gave notice that the recording contained explicit content. Even when the parental advisory label was present, it frequently was so small that the words were illegible, and the ads never indicated why the album received the label. None of the recording company/artist Web sites reviewed linked to an educational Web site for information on the labeling system. The single positive note was that almost 40% of the Web sites included the music's lyrics.
- Games: The Commission found no ads for M-rated games on the popular teen television programs reviewed. The game company print ads nearly always included the game's rating icon (or the rating pending icon) and, in a large majority of instances, content descriptors. Television ads gave both audio and video disclosures of the game's rating, and more than 80% of the official game publisher Web sites displayed the game's rating. However, the electronic game industry continues to place ads for M-rated games at the same rate as before in gaming magazines with a substantial under-17 audience. In addition, the Commission's review found: rating icons and descriptors in the print ads were often smaller than required by the industry code; television ads never included the content descriptors; only a little more than half the Web sites reviewed displayed the rating clearly and conspicuously; and just 25% displayed the content descriptors anywhere on the site.
This follow-up report is a "snapshot of advertising practices by some industry members a few months after publication" of the original report and "cannot be statistically projected to industry advertising as a whole." This review, unlike the original study, relied on advertising monitoring rather than internal industry documents, and therefore, cannot be directly compared to that Report. Finally, the follow-up report did not address the issue of children's access to violent entertainment products at retail stores and theaters. The Senate Commerce Committee has requested a second, more comprehensive report to be released this fall which will include information from individual industry members.
The report was approved by the Commission by a vote of 5-0.
Copies of the report 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. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them. To file a complaint, or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the United States and abroad.
(FTC Matter No. P994511)
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