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Hollywood pushes violent movies, games on kids – FTC

Amazing pre-election timing

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The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) accuses the entertainment industry of targeting children with adverts for every manner of sleazy movie and bloody computer game, in a scathing report released Monday.

"Companies in the entertainment industry routinely undercut their own rating restrictions by target marketing violent films, records, and video games to young audiences," FTC Chairman Robert Pitofsky said in a Washington press conference Monday.

The report revealed marketing plans and other industry materials which specifically advocate marketing to children under seventeen. Producers advertise violent games and movies on television programming which runs during after-school hours, during programmes popular among children such as Xena: Warrior Princess and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and in print media such as Teen, Jump, DC Comics and Marvel Comics, and in school newspapers. The FTC found that Hollywood studios also market-tested eight R-rated films on 12-year-olds and, in at least one case, ten-year-olds.

The report found that 83 of 118 'mature' video games were marketed to children ages 16 and younger, despite ratings indicating that they were suitable only for 17 year old and older buyers. Of the 11 video game producers contacted by the FTC, ten released documents to the agency indicating that boys younger than 17 were the primary target audiences for mature-rated blood-fest games like Quake.

"It's hard to say that just a few bad actors are giving the industry a bad name here," Pitofsky observed. The objectionable marketing practices, he said, are both "pervasive and aggressive."

Meanwhile, Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) President Jack Valenti trumpeted Hollywood's restraint in marketing entertainment meant for mature viewers. "For almost 32 years, this industry has been the only segment of our national marketplace that voluntarily turns away revenues at the box office to redeem the pledge that we have made to parents," he warbled.

The FTC report followed a year-long investigation requested by US President Bill Clinton in a knee-jerk response to the Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colorado last Summer.

Political Manna from Heaven

President Clinton, New York Senate candidate Hillary Clinton, and Presidential candidate Al Gore all scrambled to exploit the political capital of an endangered generation of innocents, and all were surprisingly well prepared.

Gore and running mate Joseph Lieberman said they would propose legislation or regulatory authority over the entertainment industry if it does not stop marketing violent material to children.

The report's release just happened to coincide with Gore's scheduled appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show, where he spent some quality time pandering to women.

"Tipper started 20 years ago educating me about why parents need more help, and she was successful in convincing the recording industry in giving warnings to parents when material is inappropriate. Now Joe Lieberman and I are following up on that, to try to persuade all the companies in that industry to abide by what they said they would do," the Veep told Winfrey.

Republican Presidential candidate George W. Bush said that parents must play stronger roles in protecting their children, and observed that opponent Gore has received a great deal of campaign money from Hollywood supporters. He stopped short of questioning the timing of the report's release, and the exceptional preparation of the Clintonites in using it as campaign material.

The Senate Commerce Committee will hold hearings Wednesday on the FTC's findings. Numerous threats of legislative action will be made, to inspire the industry to regulate itself better. But as the entertainment industry is a prodigious contributor to political campaigns on both sides of the aisle, the chance that Congress might actually follow through is remote at best. ®

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