The recording industry has made no progress in changing it's tune toward the marketing and advertising of violent and explicit material toward children and teens, a scathing report by the Federal Trade Commission said Tuesday.
The report, a follow-up to an FTC study conducted in September that examined the entertainment industry's self-regulating policies, found both the movie and video game industries had cleaned up their acts since the first report, instituting advertising practices that channel marketing efforts of adult material away from young audiences. However, music with explicitly sexual and violent content was still being targeted toward young people, the Commission said.
The follow-up report was requested by Senators John McCain, R-Ariz., Max Cleland D-Georgia, and Sam Brownback, R-Kansas, and Rep. Ernest Hollings, who asked the Commission to examine if the entertainment industry continued to advertise violent R-rated movies, explicit-content labeled music, and M-rated electronic games in media outlets popular with teens and children, and whether the industry was including rating information and explanations in their advertising.
According to the report, the movie and video game industry "made some progress both in limiting advertising in popular teen media and in providing rating information in advertising."
But the recording industry "has not visibly responded to the Commission's (September) report; nor has it implemented the reforms its trade association announced just before the report was issued," the report said.
Specifically, the Commission found that the music industry was routinely advertising explicit-content labeled music on teen programming, and that all five major recording companies placed advertising for explicit content music on television programs and magazines with substantial under-17 audiences.
Additionally, the report said ads for explicit-content music failed to indicate that the product was labeled with a parent advisory, that the rating stickers were often too small to be legible, and that no information was provided explaining why the music received a warning sticker.
The recording industry balked at the report's findings, noting that it had been voluntarily placing rating stickers on albums and CDs for 15 years. The industry said the words in song lyrics should receive the same free speech and First Amendment protection from censorship as the words in books, which are not subjected to rating systems or labeling.
Cleaning up Hollywood's adult material advertising practices became a political hot potato in the fall, when Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., who's been leading the charge to fight violence and obscenity in the entertainment industry, was running for the vice-presidency, but the issue faded from the front pages with the election of George W. Bush in November.
However, Lieberman is expected to propose legislation later this week that would prosecute entertainment companies who fail to comply with the guidelines set forth by the FTC reports, guidelines that now remain voluntary. Such legislation would likely raise serious First Amendment issues and spark years of litigation.
FTC Chairman Robert Pitofsky also noted the dangers of "government intrusion" into the regulating of content in movies and music, and urged the industry to police itself.
"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," Pitofsky said. Noting that the movie and electronic game industries had enhanced and improved their self-policing, Pitofsky had cautionary words for the recording industry.
"Unfortunately, the music industry response, at least so far, has been disappointing in its failure to institute positive reforms to its self-regulatory structure," he said.
Tuesday's report did not recommend penalties or punishments for companies that fail to comply with the report's guidelines. The FTC said the report was a snapshot of a larger report to be released in the future and focused exclusively on advertising and ratings practices. The report did not address the issue of teens and children having retail access to violent or sexually explicit movies, games and music.