Any studio executive who thought that government scrutiny of Hollywood's marketing would fade after last month's high-profile hearings on Capitol Hill about targeting R-rated movies to children was very wrong.
The Federal Trade Commission, which did a year-long study of entertainment marketing, and the Senate Commerce Committee, which held the hearings, are pounding out specifics to regularly assess whether the industry is living up to promises made by the Motion Picture Association of America and the chiefs of eight major studios.
The MPAA outlined a 12-step initiative in September to prevent the marketing of violent R-rated movies to children, and a number of studios promised to do more.
The "monitoring process" will most likely include the FTC sampling ad and trailer placements to "ensure the studios are conforming to their promises," says Commerce Committee staffer David Crane. The results are expected to be presented to the committee on a quarterly basis.
The committee has been keeping a careful eye on what the studios have done since the hearings. Last week, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who is the committee chairman, and committee member Sam Brownback, R-Kan., sent letters to studio chiefs, asking them to elaborate on their plans to protect children younger than 17 from the marketing of R-rated films.
The studios were given a month to reply.
Crane downplayed McCain's request, saying: "The purpose of the letter was simply to ask the studios to fill in the details of the commitments they made during testimony. This letter is not an antagonistic measure."
He added that the studios are not being forced to send supporting information but that the committee is confident the studios will comply with the request.
Brownback, according to his letter, is asking additional questions because "time constraints prevented (him) from posing (them) at the time." His seven questions include whether studios will stop pushing R-rated movies through street promotions aimed at teens; stop entering into licensing agreements to market toys, dolls, action figures and Halloween costumes to kids based on characters in R-rated movies; stop advertising R-rated movies on networks whose primary audiences are young children or teenagers, such as Nickelodeon and MTV; and stop advertising such films before 9 p.m.
Studios contacted about the letters confirmed that they did receive them and that they plan to respond within the requested time period. They declined to comment further.
Josh Chetwynd, USA TODAY. October 24, 2000
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