Entertainment execs respond to FTC charges

Wednesday, September 13th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) — As a parent, Kevin Foxe understands the concern over marketing violent films to children.

But as a filmmaker, he knows how important it is to have a trailer for a new film screened right before the audience settles down for a blockbuster.

``I'm actually surprised to see some of the trailers I see with certain movies,'' Foxe, an executive producer of ``The Blair Witch Project,'' said Monday. ``I'm sitting in the audience and I say, 'Why am I sitting with my kid watching a trailer for 'The Cell?'

``Yet if I'm making a movie, I'd love to have my trailer in front of the No. 1 box office movie.''

Movie trailers were just one target of a Federal Trade Commission report issued Monday accusing the entertainment industry of marketing violent songs, films and games to children.

The FTC not only criticized the movie industry for showing coming attractions for violent films to young audiences but also for allowing underage patrons to buy tickets to R-rated films.

The report, the result of a yearlong study, concluded that movies rated R — which require an adult to accompany children under 17 to the theater — and video games that carry an M rating for 17 and over are routinely targeted toward younger people.
The FTC did not single out specific film studios, record labels or video game makers for criticism.

Industry officials rebutted the allegations, which will be the subject of a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on Wednesday.

``We believe we are marketing our material appropriately, but we are reviewing our marketing practices to ensure this is the case,'' said Ken Green, a spokesman for the Walt Disney Co.

``There is no enterprise in America that is more attentive to the parents of this country than the movie industry,'' added Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Association of America. ``Instead of bludgeoning us, I think Congress should say congratulations to the movie industry.''

Representatives of the music and video game industries issued similar statements.

The FTC, hoping to avoid a First Amendment legal battle, is not pressing for legislation regulating the entertainment industry, but is calling instead for an expansion of voluntary codes.

One theme struck by entertainment executives Monday was the unfairness of painting the industry with a broad brush. Independent filmmakers, for instance, said that while they produce many films with violent and sexually oriented content, their small budgets prevent them from doing the kind of blanket marketing that could result in inappropriate advertising.

``A movie in wide release has millions of dollars behind it and the concept of targeting flies out the window,'' said Mark Urman, co-president of Lions Gate Films, which released the blood-soaked ``American Psycho'' this year. ``You're going to touch and reach everybody.

``In the independent arena we're forced and very careful to aim our marketing where it should be going. I don't think we can be accused of creating appetites that couldn't or shouldn't be satisfied.''

And executives were unanimous in rejecting any suggestion that the government should regulate movie marketing.

``Our members have the right to express themselves and to tell a story the way they see it as artists,'' said Cheryl Rhoden, assistant executive director of the Writer's Guild of America. ``The audience can accept or reject that, but government or other entities have no right to suppress that expression. They can criticize it and that's certainly fair. But they don't have a right to attempt to block its distribution.''
None of the movie studios will be represented at Wednesday's hearing. Stacey Snider, chairwoman of the motion pictures group at Universal Pictures, withdrew her name after learning she was the lone studio representative to accept the committee's invitation to testify.

``She has declined to participate ... because it would be inappropriate for her to be the only studio head speaking for the motion picture industry,'' said a studio spokeswoman.

On the Net:
Federal Trade Commission: http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2000/09/youthviol.htm
Writer's Guild of America: http://www.writersguild.org