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FTC may track television ads

Apr 8, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Under legislation being considered by Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Federal Trade Commission would be required to issue a report to Congress every year on whether the entertainment industry is marketing violent content to kids.
The annual review would keep tabs on the advertising practices of movie studios, record labels and video game companies, tracking whether they are using ads on television and elsewhere to peddle grisly and explicit fare to youngsters.
The Connecticut Democrat and three other lawmakers were the impetus behind a 2000 FTC review of industry marketing efforts issued in the aftermath of the Columbine High School shootings.
That report forced the industries to curb many of their practices and adopt voluntary guidelines, some of which the senator later called inadequate. The agency has issued two follow-up studies since then, and a third is due in June-all in response to congressional requests.
“We had talked about possibly pushing for legislation,” Sen. Lieberman’s spokesman Dan Gerstein told Electronic Media last week, adding that the discussions have been internal so far.
“The reports the FTC has done have had a very beneficial effect, a very constructive effect, on informing the public,” the aide said.
He said exposing “embarrassing” marketing tactics helped shame some media executives into changing their ways. For example, movie studios stopped including kids in focus groups that provide feedback on the marketing of R-rated films.
Requiring yearly reports would maintain pressure on these industries and keep the government in a watchdog role, Mr. Gerstein added. The June report, requested by about 20 House members, will provide a fresh update on the ad strategies of the industries and assess whether violent fare is still being aimed at kids.
Lawmakers return to Washington this week following the Easter recess. The Senate is set to reconvene April 8 and the House is back April 9.
Other key issues on tap:
* There’s a “strong possibility” that Senate Commerce Chairman Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., will hold a hearing on the FTC’s agreement to cede its media merger review authority to the Justice Department, Sen. Hollings’ spokesman Andy Davis said. It’s also likely the committee will hold a hearing on media consolidation-one scheduled for March was canceled.
* The Senate antitrust subcommittee, headed by Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., will hold an April 23 hearing on the planned $72 billion merger of AT&T and Comcast. AT&T Chairman and CEO Michael Armstrong, Comcast President Brian Roberts and watchdogs critical of the deal are expected to testify.