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Film execs to screen guidelines for Senate

Hollywood has a cleanup plan. Movie executives will present marketing guidelines Wednesday at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing, Part 2 of a discussion centering on a Federal Trade Commission report showing that the entertainment industry markets violent fare to children.

The studio executives scheduled to testify have been meeting daily with Motion Picture Association of America president Jack Valenti to establish a marketing policy and strengthen the existing movie ratings. Among strategies considered:

  • Prohibiting trailers for R-rated films before G-rated movies. (There is, however, disagreement about whether to show trailers for R-rated films before PG and PG-13 movies.)
  • Banning underage youths from focus groups for R-rated movies - unless they are accompanied by an adult.
  • Providing more specific information on why movies received specific ratings.

In addition, individual studios may present plans that go further. (The Walt Disney Co. touted its revised and strengthened guidelines a day after the FTC report's release Sept. 11.)

Industry insiders predict that execs will concede some ground but that they also will raise the specter of censorship.

Movie executives didn't show at the first hearing Sept. 13, letting Valenti speak for them and riling committee senators.

This time, Valenti is not expected to testify, but every major studio will be represented by top brass: Warner Bros.' Alan Horn, Sony Pictures' Mel Harris, Universal Pictures' Stacey Snider, DreamWorks' Walter Parkes, 20th Century Fox's Jim Gianopulos, MGM's Chris McGurk, Paramount Pictures' Rob Friedman and Walt Disney's Robert Iger.

While there are clashing views as to how far the guidelines should go, the feeling in Hollywood is that studios must come up with something to appease both politicians and the American people.

"Studio heads will look, and if there is an abuse in marketing, it will be responsibly addressed," says Robert Rehme, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. "People in Hollywood are no different from everybody else. We're concerned. We're parents. We react like everybody else reacts."

The key question is whether the proposals will be enough to pacify the politicians. "If they were to be just as appalled as the committee members, it might help," says Martin Kaplan of the University of Southern California. "Maybe they can take advantage of the heightened focus on them."


Claudia Puig, USA TODAY. September 26, 2000

Copyright © 2000 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.. All rights reserved.