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Trust but verify - Broadcasting & Cable

Trust but verify

McCain, three other senators ask FTC for reports on violence marketing
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Although movie studios, videogame makers and record companies promised last fall not to advertise their violent products to children, four senators want the Federal Trade Commission to stay on the case.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.), ranking member Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.), and Sens. Max Cleland (D-Ga.) and Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) have asked the agency for two more reports on whether entertainment companies are marketing violence to kids.

One report, due this spring, will look at whether "violent R-rated movies, explicit-content-labeled music, and M-rated games are advertised in teen media and whether ratings/labels and content-descriptor information are included in this advertising."

The second report, due this fall, will take a deeper look at the same issues and ask the industry to provide more information.

The move comes on the heels of a report by the Surgeon General saying that exposure to violence can have short-term negative effects on kids, although it was less certain of the long-term implications.

"The purpose of the request is that, after holding a series of hearings and getting a series of commitments [from entertainment companies last fall], we now would like the FTC to switch into an investigative/monitoring mode to ensure that the companies follow through on and practice these commitments," said Commerce Committee staffer David Crane.

For all the talk in Washington on how to keep kids away from violent content, there hasn't been much legislative activity. McCain last year introduced a bill that would encourage media companies to voluntarily label their products for violent content, but he never held hearings on it or held a committee vote. Sens. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), McCain and Brownback also sponsored legislation that would require a universal labeling code for all content, and Hollings has long been pushing a ban on violent TV to late hours, but none of these bills have been passed.

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