Federal Trade Commission Testifies on Marketing of Violent Entertainment to Children

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Bureau of Consumer Protection Associate Director Lee Peeler presented Federal Trade Commission testimony today before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet. The focus of the testimony was the Commission's two reports on the marketing of violent entertainment products to children by the motion picture, music recording, and electronic game industries issued in September 2000 and in April 2001. The first report, titled "Marketing Violent Entertainment To Children: A Review of Self-Regulation and Industry Practices in the Motion Picture, Music Recording & Electronic Game Industries," was issued in response to a request from President Clinton, and the follow-up report was requested by Senators John McCain, Ernest Hollings, Max Cleland and Sam Brownback of the Senate Commerce Committee.

According to the testimony, although all three industries have self-regulatory systems that purport to rate or label their products to help parents make choices about their children's entertainment, the Commission found in its September 2000 Report that individual companies in each industry routinely marketed to children the very products that have industries' self-imposed parental warnings or ratings due to violent content. Indeed, for many of these products, the Commission found evidence of marketing and media plans that expressly targeted children under 17. In addition, the companies' marketing and media plans showed strategies to promote and advertise their products in the media outlets most likely to reach children under 17.

In response to these findings, the Commission recommended that all three industries enhance their self-regulatory efforts and suggested that the industries: Establish or expand codes that prohibit target marketing to children and impose sanctions for noncompliance; Increase compliance at the retail level; and Increase parental understanding of the ratings and labels.

The Commission's follow-up report, issued April 2001, found that the movie and electronic games industries had made some progress on both fronts, but that the music recording industry had made no visible response to the September Report.

The testimony detailed that the Commissions would issue a second, more comprehensive, follow-up report in the fall of 2001. In addition to reviewing advertising placement in popular teen media and checking ads in all media to see if they include clear and prominent rating information, the Commission is also seeking detailed information from individual industry members, including marketing plans for R-rated movies, explicit-content labeled music, and M-rated games released since the Commission issued its report last September. In addition to the results of an undercover shopping survey, the Fall 2001 report will discuss industry compliance with commitments made following the September 2000 Report.

In conclusion, the testimony emphasized that, because of First Amendment issues, the Commission continues to believe 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. The Commission urged individual industry members both to keep the industry's own commitments and to go beyond those commitments to meet the recommendations the Commission made in its September 2000 Report.

The Commission vote to approve the testimony and provide a copy for inclusion in the formal record was 5-0.

Copies of the testimony 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), or use the complaint form at www.ftc.gov. 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 U.S. and abroad.

(FTC File No. P0994511)

Contact Information

Media Contact:
Cathy MacFarlane
Office of Public Affairs
Staff Contact:
Lee Peeler
Bureau of Consumer Protection