Mixed reviews from FTC

Apr 30, 2001  •  Post A Comment

The Federal Trade Commission thinks the entertainment industry has made “positive changes” to its advertising practices but hasn’t gone far enough to curb the marketing of adult-rated fare to kids.
In a six-month update to a September report on the marketing practices of movie studios, video- game companies and record labels, the agency said Hollywood has made some improvements, particularly with movie trailers and print ads. But studios were faulted for advertising violent R-rated movies during television programs popular with teens.
The Motion Picture Association of America was encouraged by the broader, upbeat assessment. “It confirms the efficiency of our swift actions. The MPAA 12-point set of initiatives has been implemented and is working, with some minor adjustments still to be made,” President and CEO Jack Valenti said.
The FTC also expressed concern that R-rated movie ads on TV contain film ratings and content descriptions that are “small, fleeting or inconspicuously placed.”
It said studios routinely advertise R-rated films during syndicated shows airing between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. that are popular with kids under 17.
“Dracula 2000,” “Hannibal,” “Proof of Life,” “Shadow of the Vampire,” “Snatch,” “The Gift,” “The Pledge,” “Traffic” and “Valentine” were advertised on “Friends,” “Drew Carey,” “Seinfeld,” “Home Improvement,” “Spin City,” “Moesha” and “The Simpsons.”
Though the FTC said Hollywood should be applauded for including movie ratings in TV ads-even if they’re difficult to see-it thinks the effort falls short. “In most cases the ads reviewed were not effective in providing parents with information about the reason for the rating.”
To avoid undermining the First Amendment, the FTC endorses “vigilant self-regulation” as the best way to protect kids, in contrast to lawmakers seeking to have the FTC penalize companies that target youngsters with grisly content.
Imploring each business to do more, the FTC said, “To avoid undermining the cautionary message in their ratings and labels, the industries should avoid advertising their products in the media most watched and read by children under 17.”
The industries were also encouraged to establish or expand their “codes of conduct” governing their marketing practices.
The agency saved its harshest criticism for the recording industry, which it described as the least responsive to its concerns. Music labels were criticized for marketing recordings with explicit lyrics during TV shows favored by teens, and the Recording Industry Association of America was criticized for not adding advisory warnings to TV ads.
Of 23 ads for explicit music content that appeared on TV programs with substantial teen audiences, only five contained parental warnings. MTV’s “Total Request Live,” BET’s “Top 10 Live” and UPN’s “WWF Smackdown!” all carry ads for music with explicit lyrics.
The RIAA said it needs to better follow its own marketing guidelines but insisted it has beefed up warnings on labels, in print ads and online.