Scolds Marketers About Violent Content
By Wendy Melillo
The FTC report says 'self-regulation is weakened' as
kids see ads for questionable fare.
WASHINGTON A Federal Trade Commission report on media
violence released today gives the entertainment
industry mediocre marks for its efforts to police the
marketing of violent content to children.
"Self-regulation, long a critical underpinning of U.S.
advertising, is weakened if the industry markets
products in ways inconsistent with their ratings and
parental advisories," said FTC chairman Deborah Platt
Majoras, in a statement. "This latest FTC report shows
improvement, but also indicates that the entertainment
industry has more work to do."
While the film industry does not specifically target
R-rated films to kids under 17, it continues to
advertise such movies on TV shows popular with that
age group, according to the report. Some of these ads
violated the standard adopted by some studios to
prohibit R-rated movie ads in media where more than 35
percent of the audience is under 17.
The report also noted that 90 percent of R-rated movie
ads were placed on Web sites where children under 17
made up at least one-third of the audience.
The commission suggested that the movie industry
examine whether the dissemination of unrated or
"director's cut" versions of R-rated fare undermines
the self-regulatory system.
This report, the sixth overall from the FTC, marks the
first time the commission has studied viral marketing,
which includes sites like MySpace and YouTube.
The FTC also criticized the music industry for
advertising on cable shows and Web sites where teens
make up a significant portion of the audience. The
music industry also has ineffective policies when it
comes to preventing kids from buying inappropriate
CDs, and it should do a better job of displaying its
parental advisory label in TV and online ads, the FTC
Meanwhile, videogame companies earned poor marks for
placing ads on sites where teens represented 45
percent of the audience, a violation of the industry's
own standard. The FTC recommended that the videogame
industry tighten its guidelines.
Some consumer groups said the report should serve as a
wake-up call to the industry to tighten
"The report confirms what we at Common Sense hear from
parents all the time: even though most parents try to
keep a close eye on what movies and videogames their
kids are buying, they worry that their kids can still
buy content that isn't appropriate for them," said Jim
Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media, a nonprofit group
that works to improve the media landscape for kids and
families. "In an era where kids are spending more and
more time with the media, parents need the assurance
that retailers won't put ultraviolent media content in
the hands of kids who aren't ready to see it, and that
the entertainment industry will be responsible in how
it markets violent content."
But Steyer also said the report did not address the
issue of inappropriately placing ads for violent
movies in the middle of family friendly shows or
sporting events. "You're watching American Idol with
your 9-year-old and an ad for The Zodiac Killer or The
Reaper comes on and you have to rush to grab the
remote," he said. "This was a pretty tame report and
we have seen this movie before. A ton more needs to be
Gayle Osterberg, vp, corporate communications at the
Motion Picture Association of America, issued this
statement in response to the FTC's findings: "As
today's report affirms, the movie industry is doing a
good job overall providing information to consumers
and marketing films in an audience-appropriate manner.
We welcome constructive review, as we are constantly
working to maintain the system as the gold standard of
parental information tools."