In April 2001, Sen. Joseph Lieberman introduced the Media Marketing Accountability Act (mmaa) — a bill to prohibit the marketing of “adult-rated media,” i.e., movies, music, and computer games containing violent or sexual material, to young people under the age of 17. The mmaa would empower the Federal Trade Commission to regulate the advertising of entertainment products to young people. The proposed legislation, if enacted, would inject a federal agency into decisions about the marketing of movies, music, and electronic games — and thereby potentially into decisions about what sorts of movies, music, and games are produced. Lieberman’s hearings, well publicized at the time, provided a valuable forum for exposing entertainment industry practices to public scrutiny. Even so, the expansion of the federal government’s regulatory powers in the area of entertainment and culture is undesirable compared to the traditional, and still workable, system of industry self-censorship...
The bill (co-sponsored by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton) defined “targeted marketing” to minors of such material as “an unfair or deceptive” practice.
The text of Lieberman’s bill cites the findings of the September 2000 ftc report. At that time, the ftc recommended that the entertainment industries: (1) establish or expand codes that prohibit target marketing to children and impose sanctions for noncompliance; (2) restrict the access of children to age-inappropriate entertainment at the retail level by requiring identification or parental permission; and (3) work to increase parental understanding of the ratings and labels. A second ftc report, made public in April 2001, found that matters had not much improved since the first report. Only the electronic game industry had agreed to adopt a recommended marketing code.
McCain’s and later Lieberman’s hearings generated negative publicity for the entertainment industry. The hearings also pressured industry representatives to publicly defend their marketing practices, and, in many cases, vow to improve them. Movie industry leaders, for example, promised to stop using children and underage teenagers to test-screen films with R-ratings and to stop showing trailers for R-rated films at movies rated for general audiences. Critics of the entertainment industry, however, were not satisfied with the promises made by entertainment executives. According to ftc testimony in July 2001, the movie and electronic game industries had improved their practices following the September 2000 report, but there was much room for further improvement. Most unsatisfactory of all, the music recording industry had made “no visible response” to criticism.
Lieberman’s proposed legislation would appear to inject real menace into public consideration of the issue. The bill empowers the ftc to formulate standards for entertainment advertising and to impose steep fines ($11,000 per day) for violations. Some entertainment executives claim to fear that Lieberman’s legislation will empower the ftc to formulate a code of conduct and content guidelines for all entertainment media. In fact, one important consumer advocacy group, the National Institute on Media and the Family (nimf), argues that the existing self-regulatory system, in which the movie, music, and electronic games industries each have their own separate voluntary system of ratings, should be replaced by a new uniform rating system, monitored by an independent oversight committee. It is also worth noting that the ftc itself, in its testimony before the House Commerce Subcommittee on Telecommunications in July 2001, did not seek regulatory authority over the marketing of entertainment products and in fact argued, in view of the First Amendment protections enjoyed by these products, that industry self-regulation was the best approach.
Where is our Zappa?
And how old would you have to be to read about the gay penguin agenda?