Lieberman bill gives FTC teeth


Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) on Thursday introduced legislation that would give the Federal Trade Commission authority to prosecute entertainment companies who are found marketing violent material to children.

"The bottom line here is that the First Amendment is not a license to deceive," Lieberman said. "This legislation says to the people who run the entertainment industry that they cannot have it both ways. They cannot label their products for adults and target them to kids. And they cannot continue to undermine their ratings and undercut the authority of parents."

The bill, cosponsored by Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) and Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), would fine offending companies up to $11,000 per violation.

The entertainment industry strongly opposes the bill, saying that the FTC itself acknowledges that the industry has made substantial progress toward stopping the practice of targeting kids through advertising violent products in teen-focused magazines and TV shows. Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Association of America, says if Congress passes the bill entertainment companies would be forced to stop using their voluntary ratings systems. "This legislation will put an end to the movie industry's voluntary film rating system, because it penalizes those distributors who participate in the . system and gives total immunity . to any producer who distributes a film without a rating," Valenti said. "Not only does this bill torment the First Amendment, it also turns film content advisories to parents into a legal liability for producers."

The music industry, which came under greater scrutiny this week when the FTC singled it out in its report as the worst performer, echoed Valenti. "Senator Lieberman's legislation could, in fact, create a disincentive to providing information to parents about explicit content," said Cary Sherman, senior executive vice president and general counsel for the Recording Industry Association of America. "By essentially punishing those who adopt voluntary guidelines, the legislation would have the unintentional result of discouraging participation in the successful Parental Advisory Program." - Paige Albiniak