President asks FTC to study marketing of violent programming
WASHINGTON, D.C.–The Federal Trade Commission will conduct a $1 million study over the next 18 months to determine whether the makers of movies, music and video games are intentionally marketing violent entertainment to children.
During the course of the study, the FTC will have the legal power to demand documents from the entertainment industry.
President Clinton announced at a Rose Garden ceremony in early June that he asked the FTC to do the study to determine whether the entertainment industry is abiding by its own voluntary system of marketing regulations.
“Members of the entertainment industry must do their part,” said Clinton at the Rose Garden ceremony. “They, and the rest of us, cannot kid ourselves. Our children are being fed a dependable daily dose of violence — and it sells.”
While Clinton hopes the study will produce valuable information, White House officials said that Clinton had not yet determined whether the study will lead to new regulations for the entertainment industry.
Clinton said that the purpose of this study was to prevent more youth violence, specifically referring to the shootings at Columbine High School in his address. He said it was necessary to determine whether violence was being marketed to children because there is a clear link between sustained exposure to violent entertainment and violent behavior. “What the studies say, quite simply, is that the boundary between fantasy and reality violence, which is a clear line for most adults, can become very blurred for vulnerable children.
“Kids steeped in the culture of violence do become desensitized to it and more capable of committing it themselves,” according to the President.
Clinton said his main concern is that members of the entertainment industry are not following voluntary standards already in place to keep children from accessing inappropriate material. “I want to challenge the owners of movie theaters and video stores, distributors, anyone at the point of sale, to enforce the rating systems on the products that you sell,” he said. “Check the IDs, draw the line. If underage children are buying violent video games or getting into R-rated movies, the rating system should be enforced to put a stop to it.”
Critics of the study argued that the proposal was merely an attempt to seek publicity at the expense of members of the entertainment industry. Hilary Rosen, president of the Recording Industry Association of America, told The Washington Post that the White House was looking for headlines and an opportunity to move ahead of legislative proposals before Congress that would have mandated a study.
Other critics of the study say the White House is looking for a quick fix to growing concern over school violence.
“Politicians know that when you trash the movie industry — ‘it’s soiling the culture’ — your numbers go up,” Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Association of America, told the Post. “They’re looking for something to fix it quickly.”