Gore Says He’d Consider Legislating Entertainment Marketing

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Source: SonicNet

By: Contributing Editor Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen reports

(WASHINGTON, DC) — Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore said he will encourage legislation or more stringent government regulation of the entertainment industry if it continues marketing violent music, movies and video games to children.

"If the industry promises parents that it will not market violent material to children and then proceeds to do so, then the industry’s practices could constitute false and deceptive advertising," Gore was quoted as saying in Monday’s (Sept. 11) The New York Times.

Nina Crowley, executive director of the anti-censorship organization Mass Mic, said Gore’s comments are "an out-and-out call for a violation of the First Amendment, and people who are concerned with the issues this country was founded upon should seriously reconsider their support of Al Gore."

But, she said, they didn’t come as a surprise. "He finally came out of the closet on this issue," she said.

Gore’s comments came on the eve of Monday’s release of a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report that concluded record labels, movie studios and video-game manufacturers market to children and teenagers products that are labeled as inappropriate for kids under 17. (The complete report is at www.ftc.gov.)

"Individual companies in each industry routinely market to children the very products that have the industries’ own parental warnings or ratings with age restrictions due to their violent content," the report reads.

The FTC examined marketing plans and other documents and found that labeled products were advertised in media outlets "most likely to reach children under 17," including magazines such as Seventeen and Game Pro and Internet sites such as MTV.com and happypuppy.com. (Sonicnet.com‘s parent company, Viacom, also owns MTV.com.)

The report examined the marketing and advertising of 55 recordings with explicit-content labels, but it did not evaluate the content of the albums. Of the 55 marketing plans, 15 expressly identified teens as part of their target audience, the report says.

Report Cites Eminem, Cash Money

Rapper Eminem – whose songs include the spouse-murder tale "Kim" ( RealAudio excerpt) – is briefly mentioned in the text, as is the hip-hop label Cash Money, which the FTC lauds for clearly labeling explicit and non-explicit albums on its Web site.

But no matter whom the albums are marketed to, adults are ultimately responsible for any purchases, Crowley said. "Most kids under 16 don’t have their own source of income," the Mass Mic director said. "It’s insulting to parents that this report is telling them they aren’t responsible enough for what their children buy and listen to. It’s basically saying that the entertainment industry has more control over children than parents do. If that’s true, then that points to a much bigger problem."

The report does not propose government regulation or legislation and states that its findings and proposals "are not designed to regulate or even influence the content of movies, music lyrics or video games."

Gore’s running mate, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, has long been a critic of popular culture and will testify at a Senate hearing on the report Wednesday. President Clinton called for the FTC report last June.

Gore told the Times he would strive to help parents take more control of their children’s cultural choices. "If I’m entrusted with the presidency, I’m going to do something about this," he said.

Gore’s Republican opponent, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, called the vice president’s vow hypocritical, claiming that Gore distanced himself from the FTC investigation in 1999 to curry favor with potential supporters in Hollywood.

Bush Spokesperson Claims ‘Hypocrisy’

"Suddenly, Al Gore is telling Hollywood to clean up its act after aggressively cleaning out their wallets for the past year," Bush spokesperson Dan Bartlett said in a statement posted on the candidate’s official Web site. "Al Gore waving around a report that he denounced at a Hollywood fund-raiser just a year ago makes him a deserving candidate for an Oscar award in hypocrisy."

Dave Marsh, music journalist and author of "50 Ways To Fight Censorship," says politicians who blame popular culture for violence are barking up the wrong tree. "They need to talk about who commits violence, not who depicts it," he said. "I think any vice president who was behind the illegal war fought in Iraq and the one starting in Colombia ought to be impeached." (Marsh writes sonicnet.com‘s monthly "American Grandstand" column.)

Since 1985, the music industry has voluntarily labeled recordings containing explicit lyrics with a black-and-white sticker that reads: "Parental Advisory: Explicit Content." On Oct. 1, new Recording Industry Association of America guidelines take effect, calling for the parental advisory label to be included in advertising and promotion for those albums.

RIAA representatives did not return calls by press time. But RIAA President Hilary Rosen told theTimes that the recording industry voluntarily agreed to further guidelines that would prohibit advertising stickered albums in publications with audiences primarily under age 16.

Rosen – who has donated $1,000 to Gore’s campaign and another $3,000 to the Democratic party, according to the Center for Responsive Politics – also told the newspaper she thinks government regulation would actually discourage self-regulation.

"These voluntary guidelines, if suddenly subjected to criminal sanctions, would be withdrawn immediately," Rosen told the Times. "You would create a disincentive in the marketplace for people to do the right thing."