|UPDATE: TARGETING KIDS|
September 13, 2000
KWAME HOLMAN: Following a series of school shootings last year, President Clinton directed Federal Trade Commission Chairman Robert Pitofsky to study the entertainment industry's marketing of violent material with respect to young people. The FTC was not asked to determine any link between violent media and violent acts. Testifying before the Senate Commerce Committee this morning, Pitofsky detailed the main finding of the report released Monday-- that many entertainment companies market adult-rated products to children, in violation of their own voluntary ratings systems.
ROBERT PITOFSKY, Chairman, Federal Trade Commission: As you know from our report, for each of the three industry segments, target marketing to children of entertainment products with violent content is pervasive and aggressive. Of the movies we looked at, 80% were marketed to kids under 17. Of the music recordings we looked at, all of them were marketed to young people under 17. Of the electronic games we looked at, 70% were marketed to kids.
KWAME HOLMAN: Pitofsky recommended Congress act only if the entertainment industry fails to change the marketing practices he says are aimed at children.
ROBERT PITOFSKY: I believe these industries should be given a reasonable period of time to consider whether they are ready to commit to effective self-regulation. If it turns out that self regulation doesn't solve the problem and current law is inadequate, legislation respectful of the First Amendment should be considered. By adopting rating codes...
SPOKESMAN: Very strong words.
ROBERT PITOFSKY: Well, I've thought about it a long time. I hope we don't go to that. I think it would serve everybody's interest if the industry will come to the table and come up with adequate self regulation.
KWAME HOLMAN: As today's hearing got underway, Commerce Committee Chairman John McCain noted sharply that executives from major movie studios invited to attend, declined.
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: There will be much said today but thundering silence will be heard from motion picture executives. They have all been invited to testify. But by some uncanny coincidence, every single studio executive was either out of the country or unavailable. I can only conclude the industry was too ashamed of or unable to defend their marketing practices. Their hubris is stunning.
KWAME HOLMAN: But Jack Valenti, head of the Motion Picture Association of America, did testify and tried to explain why the studio executives did not.
JACK VALENTI: One of them at this moment is in London with a worldwide meeting of his parent corporation, another in Australia for a long-delayed meeting there. Another one is on maternity leave. Another one is in the middle of an important meeting appointed to a commission by the governor of California. And I had one who would be here, Stacy Snyder, but at the last minute, she said she didn't want to appear by herself.
KWAME HOLMAN: Valenti went on to say he agreed with many of the criticisms of the entertainment industry contained in the FTC report.
JACK VALENTI: It appears from the report that some marketing people stepped over the line where reasonable becomes unacceptable. And I'm talking specifically about ten and 12-year-olds in a focus group. That is wrong. It is unassailably wrong and there is no excuse to sustain it. But I wanted you to know that when we draw lines in the creative world, those lines are ill-illuminated and hazily observed. We're not dealing with Euclidean Geometry where the formulas are pristine. We're dealing with the irregular passions of what I call subjective judgment; and I promise you, and you know, subjective judgments vary widely.
KWAME HOLMAN: Valenti promised to travel to California tomorrow and return with a list of recommendations he believed would be acceptable both to Congress and the movie industry.
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: We welcome you before the committee. We thank you for coming today.
KWAME HOLMAN: This afternoon, top executives of the recording and video game industries did appear before the committee and were credited simply for doing so.
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: We appreciate the fact that this is not the most comfortable time for you, but we appreciate the fact the you're willing to come and address this committee and the American people.
KWAME HOLMAN: Each executive denied marketing adult products or material to children. But they all agreed parents-- not the Congress-- are responsible for policing their children's entertainment. Danny Goldberg is president of Artemis Records.
DANNY GOLDBERG: I'm speaking not only as a long-time record executive, but also the father of a 10-year-old girl and a six and a half-year-old boy. And I do not believe that either government or any entertainment industry committee has any business in telling me and my wife what entertainment our children should be exposed to.
KWAME HOLMAN: Straus Zelnick is president and CEO of BMG Entertainment.
STRAUSS ZELNICK: We take responsibility for the content of what we do. We don't choose to market explicit material to minors. We don't believe in it. And I think that you'll get a good deal of a sense in our industry, even among people that are not like-mined that it is inappropriate and we largely agree there haut to be specific standards that prevent that. Where I think you loose this lows this constituency is where people venture opinions about specific material and decry it as shameful or not artistic. That in my view is not the purview of the legislature of this country.
KWAME HOLMAN: Chairman McCain however suggested a labeling system for records could be something everyone could agree on.
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: I'm talking about labeling as a way of informing both consumers and families as to what the content is, so that they will be informed in their purchases. That's the whole rationale in my view behind labeling.
DANNY GOLDBERG: We do label curse words because you can have objective criteria. Either those words are on an album or it is not. And I think the companies, our company included does label records with those words. That's what we've been doing for 15 years. Other than curse words:.
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: If I could interrupt, and please interrupt me. The labeling is mature audiences or really suitable for certain:.
DANNY GOLDBERG: In terms of categorizing as simple MV, or X --other than the dirty words -- I don't understand the criteria that could be used that would create those categories.
KWAME HOLMAN: For a time today, the presidential campaign trial made a detour as well. Al Gore's running mate, Joe Lieberman long has been one of the Senate's most outspoken critics of violence in the media.
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: The Vice President and I believe that vigorous self regulation is the best solution to this problem and we hope that these entertainment industries step up to the plate to do just that in the next six months. The Walt Disney Company did just that yesterday, issuing a strong statement that it would incorporate the FTC's major recommendations into its marketing policies and I want to thank and commend them for that step. But if the entertainment industry fails to act and if they market adult rated products to kids in violation of their own standards, then I believe they must be held accountable.
KWAME HOLMAN: Lieberman was followed by Lynne Cheney, former head of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and wife of Republican Vice Presidential Candidate Dick Cheney. Her comments were faithful to both roles.
LYNNE CHENEY: What seems to me the proper stance here is for outraged citizens, policy makers included of course, to take it as a duty to speak out about, to hold people who produce these outrageous products, to hold these people responsible for them, to shame them. And there is a model for this. Bill Bennett and Joe Lieberman a few years ago began distributing this silver sewer award to particularly outrageous, particularly culpable people in the industry who have produced particularly harmful product
KWAME HOLMAN: But a few minutes later, Cheney added this.
LYNNE CHENEY: Shouldn't people of stature go to Harvey Weinstein, the co-chairman of Miramax, and ask him to pledge in the future he will not fund work that debates our culture and corrode our children's souls. I notice two people of stature, Vice-President Gore and Senator Lieberman are attending a fundraising extravaganza that Mr. Weinstein is holding on Thursday, and I would ask them, please, to deliver this message.
KWAME HOLMAN: In the end Chairman McCain acknowledged that censorship concerns might prevent some actions by Congress, but he said he's determined to find ways to control further marketing of violent entertainment to children.