FTC: Children Still See Ads for Violent Content

Report Gives Entertainment Industry's Self-Regulatory Programs Mixed Reviews

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WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -- The Federal Trade Commission is giving the entertainment industry credit for limiting marketing of violent movies, video games and music to children, but it says marketers still advertise some violent content in media popular with kids younger than 17.
Ads for the movie 'Waist Deep' appeared during TV shows where the percentage of viewers younger than 17 was higher than the industry limit.
Ads for the movie 'Waist Deep' appeared during TV shows where the percentage of viewers younger than 17 was higher than the industry limit.

According to the FTC report, the movie, video-game and music industries need to tighten ad-placement standards for content rated R for violence. It recommends they voluntarily limit ads to TV shows in which less than 35% of viewers are younger than 17 and print and online venues where less than 45% of the audience is younger than 17. The study also questions whether director's cuts of R-rated movies undermine the movie industry's ratings system.

FCC report expected soon
The FTC report will be followed by a Federal Communications Commission study that is expected to ask Congress for legal authority to regulate violence in TV programming. The studies come as pressure increases for Congress to act on violence on TV and in video games. It's not clear how far Congress will go; the FTC report advocates industry self-regulation due to First Amendment concerns.

But according to the FTC, industry standards aren't keeping ads for violent content out of media popular with teens. Movie studios have moved to limit advertising to media in which no more than 35% of the audience is younger than 17, but ads for movies such as "Crash," "Waist Deep" and "Slither" still get through, the report said. The FTC found ads for R-rated movies on websites where half the audience was younger than 17.

The music industry, which has rejected the FTC's urgings to rate music by age, continues to advertise music with parental-advisory warnings on websites that reach a substantial percentage of children younger than 17, the report said. The video-game industry doesn't allow M-rated games to be advertised on websites where more than 45% of the audience is younger than 17, but that hasn't stopped many marketers, according to the FTC.

Industry grade: B-
Mary Engle, associate director of the FTC's division of advertising practices, called the report a B- for the entertainment industry. "They are continuing to advertise on programs with substantial youth audiences," she said. She credited retailers for doing a better job to ensure M-rated video games aren't sold to minors.

The Motion Picture Association of America, the Entertainment Software Association and the Recording Industry Association of America did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
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