Answering accusations that they targeted under-17-year-olds with ads for films rated R for violence, two moviemakers on Sept. 27 told senators they would impose new curbs on ad placements that go beyond what their rivals have agreed to. Warner Bros. President Alan Horn told members of the Senate Commerce Committee his company would cease running ads in any medium where at least 35% of the audience is under 17, a move that could make it difficult for the studio to advertise R-rated films on MTV and could affect some print titles including Vibe. Jim Gianopulos, chairman of Fox Filmed Entertainment, said his company adopted the same 35% figure, but limited it to "broadcast network'' programs and publications, and said the company is still reviewing whether to apply the number to cable. The decision of the two studios drew praise from committee Chairman John McCain (R., Ariz.) even as he criticized seven rivals for not going as far. Sen. McCain rapped the Motion Picture Association of America proposal, announced yesterday, to limit advertising of R-rated violent films by "not inappropriately specifically targeting children.'' "That language is not good enough. It leaves a `substantial' decision in your hands,'' said Sen. McCain. "In the past, the industry has not done enough.'' The senator's comments capped a hearing that included some remarkable moments including one in which Mel Harris, president-chief operating officer of Sony Pictures Entertainment, publicly criticized an unnamed media buyer at the company's agency, McCann-Erickson Worldwide, Los Angeles for "a judgment lapse'' in pushing to get ads for the PG-13 rated "Fifth Element'' on Nickelodeon before 8:30 p.m., after Nickelodeon had turned down the ads as inappropriate. Separately Chris McGurk, vice chairman-chief operating officer of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, said that some of the problems cited by a Federal Trade Commission report were the result of films changing shape and ratings between the time they got a "green light'' and marketing plans were drawn and when they were finished. He said MGM has instituted several steps to more closely monitor that doesn't happen and in once instance recut a science fiction film that would have gotten an R rating because of concerns it would appeal to kids.
Copyright September 2000, Crain Communications Inc.