September 11, 2000
A Federal Trade Commission report accuses the entertainment industry of marketing violent products to kids.
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SMITH: Today's Federal Trade Commission report on the marketing of violent
entertainment faults the entertainment industry for its "pervasive
and aggressive marketing of violent movies, music, and electronic games
to children." This practice, the report says, undermines the credibility
of the industry's ratings and labels. President Clinton, commenting on
the report earlier today in Scarsdale, New York, took the industry to
PRESIDENT CLINTON: The problem is the FTC report says that some entertainment companies are engaged in marketing practices that, if not illegal, are clearly wrong because they're trying to sell their movies and their other products to the very people that they themselves say shouldn't see them. So here's my ratings system, here is what I hope the parents will act on. And while the parents aren't looking, I'm going to beam this advertising in and hope they'll come anyway.
TERENCE SMITH: Joining us to discuss the report and its conclusions
is Robert Pitofsky, the chairman of the Federal Trade Commission. We
invited representatives of the entertainment industry to join us this
evening; all declined. Mr. Pitofsky, welcome.
|What did the FTC study find?|
ROBERT PITOFSKY: What we found is pretty much what the president just said, that pervasive, aggressive advertising campaigns are run on behalf of products to children. They contain violent material. The industries rated these materials as inappropriate for young audience, but they're being marketed aggressively to those very people.
TERENCE SMITH: Let me get that straight. These are all materials rated by their own industry ratings systems.
ROBERT PITOFSKY: Exactly.
TERENCE SMITH: As inappropriate for underage children. Yet you found they actually targeted them. You found that was deliberate and intentional?
ROBERT PITOFSKY: Well, it certainly was. The documentary case is overwhelming -- the marketing plans. This report really summarizes the documents that we obtained from the companies.
TERENCE SMITH: How many did you...
ROBERT PITOFSKY: Thousands, thousands. To a very great extent, their marketing plan demonstrates who they were trying to sell these products to. And with respect to all three industries, you're talking about people who are quite young and they're using devices to reach our kids, appearances at Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, focus groups that include 10, 11 and 12-year-olds. So we know what they're doing.
TERENCE SMITH: And it was written in the documents that they were going after this younger set?
ROBERT PITOFSKY: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.
|Problems at the retail level|
TERENCE SMITH: Well, if that is the case, the next level is the retail level, where young people go to obtain, either to get into the films or to obtain videos or music, that sort of thing. What happens at that level?
ROBERT PITOFSKY: Well, we did a sort of an undercover survey. We used 13 to 16-year-old youngsters to visit stores and movies in dozens of cities. What we found is in about 50% of the theaters, nobody checks for age at all. And even if they do check for age, what we found is, these kids are clever enough to get around that. They buy a ticket to a PG film and then they go to an R-rated film. For retailing of music, CD's and video games, the same group of young people found that they had no difficulty buying material that was explicit content rated or for mature purchase only 85% of the time.
TERENCE SMITH: Right. And they were not checked or carded, as the phrase goes?
ROBERT PITOFSKY: They had no difficulty at all.
TERENCE SMITH: Now, not surprisingly, Jack Valenti of the Motion Picture Association, and Hillary Rosen of the Recording Industry Association, whom we invited to come on tonight and who declined, issued statements today taking issue with your report. Hillary Rosen noted that three quarters of parents, she said, are satisfied with the ratings system for music. Is that the case?
ROBERT PITOFSKY: We said pretty much that in our report. It's interesting. Parents want this information. They say they use this information. And they're satisfied with the ratings system. It's not the ratings system that's the problem. It's the way in which individual companies market their products to an audience in a way that's inconsistent with their own ratings.
|What should the entertainment industry do?|
TERENCE SMITH: What are you calling on the industry to do?
ROBERT PITOFSKY: Well, from the very beginning we have emphasized self-regulation. This is an area that's very sensitive because of First Amendment considerations. There are self-regulatory codes. They don't seem to be working. One thing we would call upon the industry to do is to improve their level of self-regulation. They've done some rather good things other the last year since the president authorized this study. Each one of these segments is doing better. But, in all candor, they have a long way to go.
TERENCE SMITH: What then specifically could they do, would they do, or must they do to avoid the kind of enforcement that you're talking about?
ROBERT PITOFSKY: Well, the most obvious self-regulatory improvement would be to specifically say to their members, you should not market your products to young people in a way that's inconsistent with the rating that we give that material. The video game people had that as a rule previously. The record industry says they're going to implement it in October. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt that they will. The movie people have not said that. They certainly should do that. Secondly, attention to restrictions at the retailing level is very important. It doesn't make sense to have these young people buying these inappropriate materials 85% of the time. The retailers have to do better.
TERENCE SMITH: The Vice President referred to... in that clip we ran earlier, referred to deceptive advertising. Is that the approach that any enforcement would take?
ROBERT PITOFSKY: I've asked the staff and the commission to look at the question of whether or not we could challenge some of this marketing on a deceptive advertising basis. That's the statute we already enforce. The case would be a little different than anything we've brought before, but does seem to me to have a feel of deception to it. You put an R rating in the advertising, and then you go around your own R rating and market it to kids. But we need to do some research on that. That's not... we were not looking for enforcement targets when we started this project. We were looking to report to the president and Congress the way the world is. But now we have to think about where we go from here.
TERENCE SMITH: Yeah. Because it seems you've reported on what you found to be the facts of the situation. You seem to have concluded in the report that self-regulation is not working as it currently is. Is that fair?
ROBERT PITOFSKY: Oh, I think it is, yes.
TERENCE SMITH: And then aren't you inevitably led to the next step?
ROBERT PITOFSKY: Yes. We cannot leave the situation the way it is. I hope the industry will respond by continuing their improvements in self-regulation. If they don't, we'll have to think about other possible courses.
TERENCE SMITH: All of this scares people in the creative community because they fear it walks up to, if it doesn't actually become, censorship. Does it?
ROBERT PITOFSKY: No. And we've been conscious of that from the very beginning. The decision about the content of the movie or rap lyrics or the video game is up to the creative artist. The most violent material...
TERENCE SMITH: You're not trying to control that?
ROBERT PITOFSKY: We don't want to control that. I'm not even sure we want to control a parent's decision of whether their children get to see it. "Saving Private Ryan" had about as violent a 25-minute segment as I've ever seen.
TERENCE SMITH: The first part of the film.
ROBERT PITOFSKY: Yeah. But I don't think that was anything that we should regret. That was a triumph of the movie industry. But when you have material like that, and I'm not suggesting that that picture is marketed to young people, but if you have material like that and you rate it R, then you ought not to be going around to the kids and saying... and trying to persuade them to go to this movie, especially when we all know that these young people can gain admission to the theaters or buy these products unaccompanied and without any difficulty at all.
TERENCE SMITH: We noted earlier that this story was ordered and implemented when you... after the Columbine shooting and other incidents like that. Did you in this study develop any causal relationship between violence in media and entertainment and children's behavior in situations like that?
ROBERT PITOFSKY: We did. We did a literature study. We didn't try to address that question from square one. I mean, we're not a scientific organization. We did a literature study, and for the most part, what we found is most of the literature says you cannot draw direct causal connection between exposure to these materials and then going out and committing a violent act. What you can do, and again, the literature is really overwhelming on this, is you can develop a correlation between exposure to these materials and aggressive attitudes, insensitivity to violence, an exaggerated view of how much violence there is in the world. It is a matter of concern even though you can't draw a one-to-one connection between exposure and actual behavior.
TERENCE SMITH: So you might see it contributing to an attitude among younger people, but not specific actions?
ROBERT PITOFSKY: I think the literature is very clear that it contributes to an attitude, exactly.
TERENCE SMITH: Finally, this week, Wednesday, there will be a week of day-long hearings about this in which Senator Joseph Lieberman is among those, and you will testify. What do you expect to come of that?
ROBERT PITOFSKY: Well, I think they're going to put a spotlight on this issue through these hearings. They're going to address the question of where we go from here. I think it's just as the president and the vice president and Governor Bush were talking about. What do we do next, because you want to address this problem. You hope self-regulation will work. If it doesn't, we'll have to find other ways to address it. I think the hearing will... there will be many exchanges along that line.
TERENCE SMITH: Chairman Pitofsky, thank you very much.
ROBERT PITOFSKY: Thank you very much.
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