Curbing ads for the 'R' stuff

There's no question that alert parents are the first line of defense against exposing children to entertainment products intended for adults. Nothing substitutes for mothers or fathers setting firm rules and monitoring their children's buying and moviegoing habits.

But there's also no question that in today's media-soaked society a parent's job is made more difficult by entertainment companies' determination to exploit the youth market with violent or sexual content.

A report issued this week by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), with the backing of both Congress and the White House, turns a spotlight on the industries that produce movies, video games, and music CDs (see story, page 1). It poses the question of whether their promotional strategies need some reining in.

This is tricky ground, with First Amendment implications. The FTC recognized this and stopped short of calling for legislative responses to the practice of marketing "R" (restricted) or "M" (mature) rated material to youngsters under 17.

Politicians concerned about this issue, notably Al Gore and Joseph Lieberman, are somewhat less cautious. Mr. Gore has promised that, if elected president, he would look into punishing the entertainment industry for violating laws about deceptive advertising. His opponent in the fall race, George W. Bush, has also emphasized industry responsibility for what it tries to sell to children, while noting the role parents must play.

The candidates' credibility is diluted, to a degree, by the millions in campaign contributions they receive from the entertainment industry - particularly the Democrats.

Politics aside, the FTC's findings provide useful insights into the behind-the-scenes tactics of industries that publicly back ratings systems designed to keep adult content away from children. At the least, the findings, soon to be underscored by congressional hearings, should bring added pressure to apply the ratings.

Moviemakers should rethink their steady diet of "R" rated fare, theaters and retail outlets should toughen policies on admitting or selling to underage customers, and parents should strengthen their crucial front line. Curbing Ads for the 'R' Stuff

THERE'S no question that alert parents are the first line of defense against exposing children to entertainment products intended for adults. Nothing substitutes for mothers or fathers setting firm rules and monitoring their children's buying and moviegoing habits.

But there's also no question that in today's media-soaked society a parent's job is made more difficult by entertainment companies' determination to exploit the youth market with violent or sexual content.

A report issued this week by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), with the backing of both Congress and the White House, turns a spotlight on the industries that produce movies, video games, and music CDs (see story, page 1). It poses the question of whether their promotional strategies need some reining in.

This is tricky ground, with First Amendment implications. The FTC recognized this and stopped short of calling for legislative responses to the practice of marketing "R" (restricted) or "M" (mature) rated material to youngsters under 17.

Politicians concerned about this issue, notably Al Gore and Joseph Lieberman, are somewhat less cautious. Mr. Gore has promised that, if elected president, he would look into punishing the entertainment industry for violating laws about deceptive advertising. His opponent in the fall race, George W. Bush, has also emphasized industry responsibility for what it tries to sell to children, while noting the role parents must play.

The candidates' credibility is diluted, to a degree, by the millions in campaign contributions they receive from the entertainment industry - particularly the Democrats.

Politics aside, the FTC's findings provide useful insights into the behind-the-scenes tactics of industries that publicly back ratings systems designed to keep adult content away from children. At the least, the findings, soon to be underscored by congressional hearings, should bring added pressure to apply the ratings.

Moviemakers should rethink their steady diet of "R" rated fare, theaters and retail outlets should toughen policies on admitting or selling to underage customers, and parents should strengthen their crucial front line.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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