WASHINGTON _ In response to the Federal Trade Commission’s findings that the entertainment industry “aggressively” markets violence to children, film executives pledged to comply with stricter marketing guidelines recently set forth by the Motion Picture Association of America.
According to those guidelines, outlined in a 12-point initiative, Paramount, Fox, Sony, Warner Brothers, MGM, DreamWorks and Universal will not include children younger than 17 in focus groups testing R-rated movies for violence unless accompanied by an adult. At a Senate Commerce hearing Wednesday, executives also said they will ask theater owners to stop showing trailers advertising R-rated films to audiences of G-rated movies.
While acknowledging the initiative as a step toward addressing the FTC’s concerns, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)vehemently voiced his disapproval of its language.
“The initiative is full of loopholes. Why can’t you simply say that you will not market R-rated movies to children under the age of 17, period?”
Citing the wide age range of Monday Night Football audiences and the advertisements that run throughout the more than three-hour weekly broadcast, Universal Pictures Chairman Stacy Snider said it is impossible to completely restrict advertising to people 17 and older.
“No matter how carefully we target our advertising, some people under 17 will inevitably see ads for R-rated movies,” she said.
Results of an advertisement analysis conducted by the Parents Television Council shows that children are frequently exposed to “inappropriate” ads during network television’s family hour.
According to the analysis by the conservative media watchdog group, 45 of the 54 movie advertisements aired between 8 and 9 p.m., from Sept. 1 to Sept. 20, were for R-rated films.
Snider and two of her colleagues also argued that not all R-rated films are unfit for viewers younger than 17.
Referring to the Mel Gibson movie, “The Patriot,” Mel Harris, president and chief operating officer of Sony Pictures Entertainment, said he had spoken with parents who were appreciative that their 13 and 14-year-old children saw his company’s most recent movie about the American Revolution.
“The R-rating is a helpful service to parents. They are the ones who ought to determine on a child-by-child basis whether a given film is appropriate,” he said.
Dissatisfied with the industry’s 32-year-old ratings system, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Tex.) said congress will act swiftly on parents’ behalf if the executives delay in addressing its shortcomings.
“I don’t think it’s working . . . and I am sending you a signal across your bow that if you don’t find a way to make it work, you are going to see some legislation,” she said.
In a further appeal, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) asked motion picture executives to draw on their consciences and sense of social responsibility.
“Parents are really struggling out there,” he said. “You are part of the solution and part of the problem.”