Over a two-week period in the summer of 1999, President Clinton had called a summit on youth violence, announced that Hollywood couldn't be blamed for our abusive culture but should tone down gore in films, and flew to L.A. to raise $2 million from the film industry for the Democrats.
Then, back in the nation's capitol, he ordered a federal government investigation of how the entertainment business markets violence to America's young.
A year later, Vice President Al Gore's convention speech rallied families to protect children "from entertainment that you think glorifies violence and indecency."
Within a month of those remarks, the Federal Trade Commission has introduced the results of Clinton's mandate: a study pounding the entertainment industry, which happens to be the Democrats' fourth-largest donor in soft money at $5.9 million.
The FTC last week released "Marketing Violent Entertainment to Children: A Review of Self-Regulation and Industry Practices in the Motion Picture, Music Recording & Electronic Game Industries."
While the industry identifies content as not appropriate for children, companies in the industry still "routinely target children under 17 in their marketing of products their own ratings systems deem inappropriate or warrant parental caution due to violent content," according to an FTC press release describing the report's findings.
Robert Pitofsky, the FTC's chairman, said, "Companies in the entertainment industry routinely undercut their own rating restrictions by target marketing violent films, records, and video games to young audiences. These industries can and should do better than this report illustrates."
The commission selected 44 R-rated movies for the film portion of its study, finding that 35, or 80%, were targeted to children under 17. "Marketing plans for 28 of those 44, or 64%, contained express statements that the film's target audience included children under 17," the release said. The report provided similar negative statistics for music and video games. The FTC, in response, recommended that the industry enhance its self-regulatory efforts, and made no legislative recommendations.
But Gore responded to the study by strapping on enforcement guns. He and running mate Sen. Joseph Lieberman released a statement saying they'd give the industry not until sundown, but six months, to clean up its act or face "tougher measures" under current ad laws.
"If the industry makes a promise not to market inappropriate material to children but then does so, it could be guilty of false advertising," the candidates said.
Congress, of course, has also taken the cue. The Senate Commerce Committee scheduled a hearing on the study for this week. The panel's chair, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), at first had asked entertainment execs to voluntarily appear. Their lack of response led him to put seven studio chiefs on notice that he expected to see them there.