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FTC Asks For More Media Self-Regulation On Children's TV Protections

The Federal Trade Commission did not call for more regulation of the broadcast and cable industries to protect kids in the digital age, but it pointed to what it saw as some self-regulation issues with TV ads for music and movies.

In comments to the FCC Friday (Apr. 9) for its inquiry into how and whether it needs to change its children's TV/media regulation in a multiplatform world, the FTC reviewed its various studies and education efforts and pointed out that it has recommended that media companies and all other participants ramp up their self-regulatory efforts "because of possible First Amendment considerations.

That includes the marketing of snack foods and violent content. In the former category, the FTC said a study due out next year will help it determine whether media companies took its recommendations about expanding self-regulations to cover all forms of ads and promotions and the extent to which they had limited their use of character licensing to healthier foods and beverages.

While the FTC said it favored self-regulation in violent content, it pointed to its 2009 violence report and its ongoing concern that "marketers can do much more to restrict the promotion of mature-rated or -labeled products to children." It pointed to the marketing of music and movies, saying that a lack of limits on ads for explicit content has "resulted in ads on television shows that disproportionately attract young teenagers." It also points out that "movie studios directly and pervasively market PG-13 movies to children under 13 on television, in print, and on the Internet, even though the rating is supposed to represent a strong caution to parents that some material may be inappropriate for children under 13."

The Better Business Bureau's Children's Advertising Review Unit (CARU) and the Motion Picture Association of America have diverged on that issue, with CARU arguing a PG-13-rated movie (which by definition contains a caution to parents) shouldn't be advertised to kids under 12, while MPAA has countered that it should be a case-by-case call and that not all PG-13 movies are the same.

The FTC said in its comments that it would "continue to monitor" this area. It also said that mobile applications are changing the way children access entertainment and that, at least in the near term, the industry needs to help parents deal with that flood by providing information and "effective parental controls."

 

John Eggerton, Broadcasting & Cable. April 12, 2010

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