U.S. lawmakers warned the entertainment industry Wednesday to stop advertising violent movies, music and video games to kids in the next six months or face possible legislation and Federal Trade Commission charges.
The threat was issued at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing following the release of an FTC report that said children under 17 were being targeted with ads for adult entertainment.
"If these industries fail to act, and if they market adult-rated products to kids in violation of their own standards, then we must hold them accountable," Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) testified. "If the FTC has the proper authority, it should move swiftly to bring actions under its false and deceptive advertising rules," the Democratic vice presidential candidate declared.
FTC Chairman Robert Pitofsky recommended legislation if industry self-regulation fails to curtail the practices. He has asked staff to determine whether the FTC has the authority to bring charges of deceptive and unfair trade practices based on the evidence in the report.
But warning that charges could take years in the courts, Pitofsky said, "Let's see if self-regulation will work. If not, let's go to law enforcement and legislation."
Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) raised the idea of repealing the advertising tax exemption for entertainment companies that market violent products to children in violation of their own voluntary codes.
Blasting absentee movie execs, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said, "By some uncanny coincidence, every single studio executive was either out of the country, or unavailable. I can only conclude the industry is too ashamed of, or unable to defend, their marketing practices."
McCain said he intends to hold another hearing, in two weeks, to hear testimony from the motion picture industry. Several CEOs have been invited, including the heads of Time Warner, Walt Disney, News Corp. and Viacom.
Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Association of America, pledged, "We are going to examine how we advertise and conduct research so that we do not deliberately seek out the very young in the promotion of 'R' rating films."
Wendy Melillo, ADWEEK Online. September 13, 2000
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