A wise FTC

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The Federal Trade Commission got it right when it told Congress tougher self-regulation is the best response to concerns about the marketing of violent entertainment fare. After blistering marketers of violent movies, records and video and computer games in a report this year, the FTC now has issued a clear warning about the pitfalls of direct government action to regulate "content" in a society that gives great protection to free speech.

Advertising industry leaders understandably worry that critics of the entertainment industry, in and out of Congress, will now press for some sort of legislative action that could undermine advertiser First Amendment protections, and also discourage industry participation in self-regulatory programs. (A coalition of authors, publishers, booksellers and librarians last week also warned that government "proposals to censor media violence" would force the lawmakers to separate "good" from "bad" speech.)

The FTC's advice to Congress does not ignore the issue raised in its report this year: marketing research practices and media plans that seemed to target young kids for ads promoting movies, records or games that industry content codes had flagged for violent or sexual content. The commission invited lawmakers, and the public, to pressure the entertainment industry for tougher self-regulation, and encouraged a public discussion about what can be done voluntarily by advertisers and media to better target entertainment promotion to appropriate audiences. That should be a good road map for Congress.

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