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VSDA to Washington: Video Stores Are 'Doing Their Part' to Curb Kid's Access to R- and M-Rated Entertainment

20 Jul, 2001 By: Hive News

The Telecommunications and Internet Subcommittee of the U.S. House Energy & CommerceCommittee is holding a hearing today in Washington "examining the entertainment industry'sefforts to curb children's exposure to violent entertainment." VSDA has submitted a statement for the record of the hearing.

The hearing focuses on the FTC's follow-up report on the marketing of violent entertainment, issued in April. That report examined whether violent R-rated movies, explicit-contentlabeled music, and M-rated games are advertised in "popular teen media" and whether the advertising includes the associated ratings, labels andcontent descriptors. It primarily looked at the practices of the studios, labels and game manufacturers, althoughthere was some review of retailer Web sites and advertising.

VSDA's statement informs the subcommittee about the parental empowermentprograms of video stores andpoints out the positive findings of the FTC regarding these programs. It also cautions against attempting toaddress the issue of violence in entertainment through legislation.

Following is the statement ofVideo Software Dealers Association at the hearing today:

"VSDA shares with parents the concern about the impact on children of depictions of violence, and the Association does not believe that children should be able to obtain videos and video games that their parents determine are not appropriate for them. Accordingly, we are pleased to report that for more than a decade the nation’s video stores have been doing their part to make sure that America’s children do not have access to movies rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and video games rated M by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) without their parents’ consent.

"The home video industry has for more than 10 years maintained a proactive and effective program to help parents make well-informed choices on the movie and video game content rented for their children.

"We start with the premise that the best control of entertainment is parental control, and there is no better place than in a home video store for parents to control the content of the movies and video games to which their children have access. Video retailers aid parents in making more-informed entertainment choices for their families through parental empowerment programs that combine ratings education with voluntary ratings enforcement. They do this by using VSDA’s “Pledge to Parents” program and the similar, company-specific programs used by VSDA members Blockbuster, Hollywood Video, Movie Gallery, and others.

"The centerpiece of Pledge to Parents, established by VSDA in 1991, is a commitment by participating retailers:

1. Not to rent or sell videos or video games designated as “restricted” to persons under 17 without parental consent, including all movies rated R by the MPAA and all video games rated M by the ESRB.

2. Not to rent or sell videos rated NC-17 by the MPAA or video games rated Adults Only by the ESRB to persons age 17 or under.

"In addition, many retailers solicit from customers individualized instructions regarding what types of videos can be rented or purchased by family members. Thus, these voluntary systems allow parents, if they so choose, to be even more restrictive than any industry- or government-enforced system would be.

"The September 2000 report of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), “Marketing Violent Entertainment to Children,” showed the programs of video stores to be the most effective of any that the FTC examined. It did not identify a single specific instance of a video store renting an R-rated movie or an M-rated video game to a person under 17 years of age.

"Regarding the findings in the report on sales of videos and video games by mass merchant retailers, as opposed to video stores, major retailers such as Wal-Mart, Kmart, and Toys R Us have resolved to work through the logistical barriers to ratings enforcement in their stores.

"The FTC’s April 2001 follow-up report, while not focusing on ratings education and enforcement by retailers, did suggest some improvements in advertising and online marketing practices of mass merchant and other sell-through retailers (as opposed to video rental stores). VSDA is reaching out to these retailers to assist them in responding to these suggestions.

"VSDA’s Pledge To Parents and other voluntary ratings education and enforcement programs demonstrate the home video industry’s commitment to the communities that our member video stores serve. More importantly, they support the rights of parents to make fundamental decisions involving their children, while emphasizing the need for parents to take responsibility for what their children watch and play. The report of the FTC shows that these programs work.

"Finally, we must caution against the temptation to use legislation to attempt to reduce the level of violence in entertainment. Since the FTC issued its report last fall, we have seen pressure to enact legislation to prevent truthful advertising about the content of entertainment (H.R. 2246/S. 792), to impose a universal rating for violence in entertainment products (H.R. 1916), and to grant an antitrust exemption to entertainment manufacturers for activities related to ratings (S. 124). We must keep in mind that, in addressing the issue of violence in American society, the government cannot infringe the constitutional rights of video retailers and their customers – or of parents to raise their families as they see fit. Ultimately the responsibility for raising children lies with their parents, not the government and certainly not video store clerks.

"We are confident that this subcommittee will conclude that our voluntary efforts and partnerships between parents and retailers are preferable to government action in this area."

Additional information on the hearing can be found on the committee's Web site(http://www.house.gov/commerce/schedule.htm).

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