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Children Are Too Frequent Targets of PG-13 Movie Ads, Group Charges

Brooks Barnes
The New York Times
June 24, 2009

A Harvard-based children’s advocacy group is stepping up its confrontation with movie studios over how PG-13 films are marketed.

The Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood on Wednesday sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission and the Bureau of Consumer Protection demanding that the government take action to assure that films rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America are not marketed to young children. The organization complained that the commission’s exhortation to the movie industry in 2007 to address concerns over the marketing of such sexualized and violent movies through self-regulation had failed.

“The M.P.A.A. still has not done what the FTC urged it to do: adopt an explicit policy, incorporating objective criteria, for the marketing of PG-13 films,” the 10-page letter reads.

The advocacy group is particularly concerned about the marketing of PG-13 movies through fast-food toy giveaways and the sale of licensed merchandise, particularly the advertising of such offers on television. The organization presented the government agencies with research it had conducted about four PG-13 movies released since May 1.

Researchers for the organization monitored ads for “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” “Star Trek,” “Terminator Salvation” and “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. with a heavy eye on Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network, which typically draw children ages 6 to 11. Between March 17 and June 14, the group counted 2,734 commercials for the films, their licensed toys and related fast-food promotions. (Not included: ads for branded food products like “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” M&Ms.)

In a statement, the M.P.A.A. said it “takes seriously its role of ensuring that ads that run during children’s programming are appropriately placed. We review tens of thousands of movie ads each year and consider each on a case-by-case basis. Many ads, including some for PG-13 movies, are not approved for children’s television programming at all. Those that are approved we believe are appropriate because of the content of the motion picture and of the ad itself.”

An M.P.A.A. spokeswoman added that the PG-13 rating does not mean that those films are inappropriate for children younger than 13, but rather that the rating serves as an alert to parents.

Betsy Lordan, a commission spokeswoman, said the agency “is reviewing the letter carefully.”






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