Although movie studios and record companies continue to advertise violent movies and CDs on TV shows that kids watch, the administration does not appear to object strongly so long as the ads do not specifically target them.
"In advertising R-rated films, studios no longer selected programs with the goal of maximizing impact among viewers under 18," said an FTC follow-up report on violence marketing released last week.
That improvement did not go unnoticed by one major critic. Last week, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) put on hold legislation that would have given the FTC power to levy criminal charges on entertainment companies found marketing to children.
"Except for the music industry, marketing self-regulation is working—which was my hope all along—and there is no pressing need for government standard-setting," Lieberman said. "But I remain concerned that, once the scrutiny recedes, the deceptive targeting will return."
The FTC study is the second follow-up to a September 2000 report. In that one, the agency determined that advertising violent movies, music or videogames during any TV program with an audience more than 35% kids meant that advertisers were targeting them. It's hard to hit the 35% threshold, however. Even shows intended for teenage audiences rarely attract kids in such numbers, the FTC admits, noting
shows like Frosty the Snowman
(33%) and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
The studios have run some ads for R-rated violent movies on shows that teens like, such as Fox's The Simpsons, UPN's Sunday Night Heat, ABC's Drew Carey; and Home Improvement
The FTC also found that movie studios are doing a better job of disclosing detailed ratings information with their ads.