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FTC Says Studios, Game Companies Have Cleaned Up Their Acts

5 Dec, 2001 By: Hive News

Movie studios and video game manufacturers have improved visibility for content ratings and shown restraint in advertising targeting minors, but their efforts often at the cash register, says a Federal Trade Commission report released today.

The film and electronic game industries have "made commendable progress in limiting their advertising to children of R-rated movies and M-rated games and in providing rating information in advertising," saystoday's followup to the Marketing Violent Entertainment to Children: A Review of Self-Regulation and Industry Practices in the Motion Picture, Music Recording & Electronic Game Industries. Report published in September 2000.

FTC staff reviewed studio marketing plans for six violent R-rated and three violent PG-13-rated films and found no express targeting of either R-rated films to children under 17, or PG-13-rated films to children under 13.

In reviewing marketing practices, the Commission found no ads for R-rated movies in popular teen magazines and little promotion of R-rated films in locations popular with teens. Its check of trailers for R-rated movies revealed none were shown before G- and PG-rated feature films.

Retail didn't fare as well.

The agency sent out secret shoppers to determine whether unaccompanied 13- to -16-year-olds could purchase tickets to R-rated movies, explicit-content labeled recordings and M-rated games. The survey was designed to assess response to the Commission's recommendation that all three industries improve their self-regulatory efforts by increasing retail level compliance by, for example, requiring identification or parental permission for sales to children.

The results indicate that unlike the commendable progress by the movie and electronic game producers, retailers have made few changes since the first survey. Nearly half (48 percent) of the theaters sold tickets to R-rated movies to the underage moviegoers, while 90 percent of the music retailers sold explicit-content recordings to the underage shoppers; neither of these results represents a significant change from the practices documented in the first survey. Electronic game retailers showed modest improvement in restricting the purchase of M-rated games compared to last year, with 78 percent allowing shoppers to purchase M-rated games (compared to 85 percent earlier).The Commission's review of music industry ad placements, however, found that "it has continued to advertise explicit content recordings in most popular teen venues in all media," although there were "improvements in the music industry's disclosure of parental advisory label information in its advertising."

For the electronic game industry, the Commission found little advertising on popular teen television programs but learned that marketing documents for 14 violent M-rated games all had plans for at least some ad placements in media popular with teens; two expressly targeted an under-17 audience.The Commission also found continued placements of advertising for M-rated games in youth-oriented magazines and popular teen Web sites.

The Report also points to a number of companies in each industry that have adopted best practices that go beyond the industry self-regulatory programs.

The Report responds to a request from Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Ernest Hollings (D-SC), Max Cleland (D-GA), and Sam Brownback (R-KS) of the Senate Commerce Committee. The senators requested 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 Commission tracked advertising placement in media popular with youth and reviewed advertisements in print, television, radio and the Internet to determine whether the advertisements include clear and prominent rating and labeling information. In addition, the Commission reviewed internal company documents provided by nine individual industry members, including marketing plans for certain R-rated movies, explicit-content labeled music, and M-rated games released since the Commission's September 2000 Report.

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