The FTC said that while the movie and video game industries have responded to the government's requests to adjust their marketing tactics, they haven't gone far enough in removing ads from TV shows with wide appeal to children.
Blasts music biz
The report, released this morning and available on the FTC's Web site, said that all five major record companies were advertising music labeled as containing explicit content on TV programs and magazines with substantial under-17 audiences -- and in some cases with more than half the audience under 17 (a reference to MTV's Total Request Live).
The report also said the companies weren't indicating in the ads that the music even carried parental advisory warnings. It also said that the industry's reaction to the earlier FTC criticism was to back off an industry standard that would have barred advertising in media outlets in which 50% or more of the audience was under 16.
"The music industry has not taken any visible steps with respect to explicit-content labeled music," the report said. "There has been neither self-regulatory guidance from the [Recording Industry Association of America] nor commitments from individual music companies to limit the placement of advertisements for music recordings stickered with the parental advisory label. The Commission's review makes clear that industry members continue to advertise explicit-content recordings in magazines or on television programs with substantial under-17 audiences."
The TV ad information for the industry was almost totally based on spots airing on MTV and BET.
Hollywood makes progress
The film industry, heavily criticized in the FTC's September report, "has made some progress," the latest report said.
The FTC said it has found no ads for R-rated movies in popular teen magazines; that a spot check at movie theaters found that trailers for R-rated films were no longer being shown before G-rated of PG-rated films; and that movie studios now included more information on ratings in ads and film Web sites.
The report, however, said ads for R-rated movies were still airing on TV shows popular with teens. The report pointed out that Disney announced it would not accept ads for R-rated films in prime-time entertainment programming, but allowed its Dimension Films unit air ads for the R-rated "Dracula 2000" on Fox shows between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m.
"Although the industry's commitment not to advertise R-rated movies on programs with a substantial under-17 audience is a positive step, the 35% youth audience threshold adopted by some industry members will mean little practical change in the ways R-rated movies are advertised on television, with the notable exception of certain programming on cable television networks such as MTV and BET," the report said.
Clearly labeling mature-rated games
The video game industry didn't advertise M-rated games on TV shows popular with teens and showed ratings in print and broadcast ads, but it was continuing to place ads for M-rated games in gaming magazines that the FTC said had a substantial under-17 audience.
The report noted that in March the Interactive Digital Software Association adopted a new code requiring ads for M-rated games be limited to magazines in which at least 55% of the readership is 17 or older.
The FTC again suggests that marketers shouldn't advertise products rated for those over 17 on TV shows whose audience is as much 78% above the cutoff, a stance that was criticized in September by marketing groups and the entertainment industries.
FTC Chairman Robert Pitofsky in a statement this morning urged the industries to move further but also warned against congressional action.
First Amendment concerns
"Because government intrusion in decisions about content raises important First Amendment concerns, self-regulation continues to be the preferred solution to problems in this area," he said.
The FTC cautioned that while its first report was based on examination of industry marketing plans, the follow-up wasn't as comprehensive and was based only on looking at where ads were now running. This fall the FTC will do a more comprehensive follow-up.