FTC targets TV promo of violent content


It’s not violent television programming that the FCC is concerned about – it’s the use of television to market violent PG-13 movies on television programs with a significant under-13 audience. The FTC has gripes about music and video games, too.

In all fairness, the video gamers actually fared fairly well in the FTC review, but music promoters did not – they were charged with marketing explicit-content material to children, and were said to lack “objective marketing standards limiting ad placement for explicit-content music.”

The FTC’s comments came upon the release of “Marketing Violent Entertainment to Children: A Sixth Follow-up Review of Industry Practices in the Motion Picture, Music Recording & Electronic Game Industries,” its seventh installment in a series of reports on the marketing of inappropriate and violent content to children.

“The Commission has been reviewing and reporting on the movie, music, and video game industries’ advertising and marketing practices relating to violent entertainment for 10 years now,” noted FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz in a separate statement accompanying the report. “Despite considerable improvements, the self-regulatory systems are far from perfect.” He also emphasized that “in the future, it will be particularly important to address the challenges presented by emerging technologies – such as mobile gaming – that are quickly changing the ways that children access entertainment.”

FTC said that it “finds that movie studios intentionally market PG-13 movies to children under 13, and the movie industry does not have explicit standards in place to restrict this practice. The growing practice of releasing unrated DVDs undermines the rating system, and confuses parents,” and added that both studios and gamers could do a much better job limiting their presence on child-oriented websites.

Video gamers were credited with following a code, but the FTC suggested that perhaps the code needs modification. “The FTC finds a high degree of compliance with the video game industry’s marketing and advertising rules,” it said, “although these standards allow game marketers to advertise on many television shows and Web sites popular with children.”

FTC said that the music and movie industries need to develop criteria to restrict marketing to children; movies, music and games all need to tighten online and viral procedures; that all three need better ratings systems; that all three need better labeling of inappropriate content in their advertising; and offered additional recommendations on retailing and other matters.

RBR-TVBR observation: This is a case of the FTC going after the messenger, as in the one with a mesage to communicate, and not the medium. The FCC criticized studios, record companies and game-makers for their use of television, putting the onus on the trio of advertisers, not on the advertising venue.