FTC Wants More Restrictions on Advertising Violent Content on TV

The Federal Trade Commission wants advertisers of violent
movies, music and video games to do more to restrict advertising and promotion
of that content, including on broadcast and cable TV.

That was the conclusion of a new FTC report issued
Thursday. "Despite considerable improvements, the self-regulatory systems are
far from perfect," said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz.

The report concluded that the music industry still advertises
music with explicit content on TV shows with a "substantial number"
of kids, and that movie studios "intentionally market" PG-13 movies
to kids under 13.

The FTC recommended, among other things, that the movie and
music industries develop specific criteria for restricting marketing of violent
content to kids, and specifically on marketing of PG-13 movies to kids.

It also suggested that the movie, music and video game
industries boost enforcement of online trailers without sufficient access
restrictions, and that all improve the display or rating information in ads and

"As our societal standards have shifted, violence in the
media has become something of a moving target," said Adonis Hoffman, SVP
and counsel for the American Association of Advertising Agencies. "Because
of the rapid pace of technology and changing consumer tastes, content creators
have to work doubly hard to live up to expectations. It is notable that the
entertainment and video industries continue to seek ways to improve their
efforts to market responsibly especially to kids," he says. "While
there is always room for improvement, we should not underestimate the power of
pressure on these companies to conform to industry-developed and
industry-enforced guidelines and standards, especially when combined with
pressure from parents' groups and the power of competition in the market."

The Motion Picture Association of America and the Council of
Better Business Bureaus' Children's Advertising Review Unit have a deal under
which CARU refers complaints about ads for PG-13 movies to MPAA for a decision
on their appropriateness.

CARU has referred numerous films to MPAA over the past year
and a half, including Harry Potter,
Pirates of the Caribbean, X-Men, Iron Man,
Spiderman, Hulk, The Mummy
, and Star
  CARU began referring the ads to MPAA per the agreement, struck
in March 2008 after the two parties could not agree on whether PG-13 ads should
air in kids' shows.

CARU'sstand has been that PG-13 films should not be advertising in shows targeted
to young kids because the rating means that some of the content may not be
appropriate for them. MPAA has countered that there should be no line drawn in
the sand because "PG-13 does not necessarily mean you can't take a younger
child to it."

"For more than four decades the motion picture industry has voluntarily adhered to the movie ratings system and the accompanying advertising approval process to help ensure that movies and advertising are viewed by, and marketed to, appropriate audiences," said MPAA spokesman Howard Gantman. "The MPAA is committed to providing parents with clear, concise information about the content of movies so they can make informed decisions about their children's movie-going experience. We take seriously our responsibility to parents and to that end, employ rigorous standards in reviewing content so that all advertising is suitable for the audience it is intended for - whether in the movie theater, on television, or on the Internet."

The MPAA has its own ad-screening arm. Studios that submit
their movies for ratings to the MPAA's Classification and Ratings Administration
must also submit their ads to the Motion Picture Advertising Administration to
make sure they are suitable for the target audiences, particularly kids, and adhere
to a set of guidelines, according to MPAA.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.