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FTC Report: Violence Still a Problem in Marketing

Apr 12, 2007  •  Post A Comment

The Federal Trade Commission is crediting marketers with some progress in limiting the marketing of violent movies, videogames and music, but it said some R-rated films still are being advertised in TV shows popular with under-17 viewers.

In the first of two key Washington reports on violence — a Federal Communications Commission study that is expected to ask Congress for legal authority to regulate violence in TV programming is imminent — the FTC said there have been some improvements since its last study in 2004, but more changes are needed.

The movie, videogame and music industries all need to tighten ad placement standards, says the report. The study’s recommendation: The industries should voluntarily limit ads for content rated R for violence to TV shows with less than 35 percent under-17 audiences and print and online with less than 45 percent, although time of day an ad airs also would be relevant.

The study also questioned whether advertising of “director’s cuts” of R-rated movies undermines the movie industry’s ratings systems.

The studies come as pressure increases on Congress to act on violence on TV and in videogames; the two reports are expected to be part of the fuel. Not yet clear is how far Congress will go; the FTC in its report was cautious to suggest that First Amendment concerns could make voluntary industry action the best solution.

The FTC looked at advertising on Web sites and TV. Most of the TV attention focused on movie marketing and, in cable, music marketing. The agency also said some of the Web site under-age issues came from movie marketing on media companies’ Web sites, including on mtv.com, CartoonNetwork.com and NickJr.com.

The report suggested the movie marketers’ existing guidelines aren’t being followed, and ads for R-rated movies are showing up on some shows with more than 35% of the audience under 17, pointing to ads for “Crash,” “Waist Deep” and “Slither.” It also said current guidelines may not be strict enough when the audience of a show is primarily young.

The FTC suggested broader time-of-day limits on advertising may be desired in situations where the current guidelines, even when followed, allow a large number of teens to see ads for R-rated film ads.

The Motion Picture Association of America, the Entertainment Software Association and the Recording Industry Association of America did not immediately return calls for comment.

(Editor: Horowitz)