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FTC Says Showbiz Violence Targeted to Kids

The entertainment industry is using violence to peddle adult-rated products to children, the Federal Trade Commis-sion reportedly has discovered during a yearlong investigation into the industry's marketing practices.

A draft report on the investigation shows that movie studios advertised violent R-rated movies during television shows with predominantly teenage audiences. It also shows that producers of violent video games touted products suitable for "mature" users in magazines aimed at young teens, The Washington Post reported, quoting sources familiar with the report.

The FTC is scheduled to release its final version of the report within the next few weeks. It has reviewed thousands of pages of documents from the motion picture, record and video game industries, paying particular attention to the costly marketing plans that companies develop to sell products.

President Clinton ordered the FTC to investigate entertainment industry marketing practices in the wake of the Columbine High School massacre. That tragedy, in which 13 people died, and other school shootings brought national attention to the way the entertainment industry sells products.

FTC spokesman Eric London refused to comment on the substance of the report before its public release. FTC commissioners are still reviewing the staff conclusions, which are subject to change.

In addition to surveying internal marketing documents, FTC investigators also found that the content codes voluntarily administered by the film, music and video game industries are poorly enforced.

FTC investigators found that underage children frequently were sold tickets to R-rated movies even though the MPAA's code bans anyone younger than 17 from entering such movies unless accompanied by a parent or adult guardian.

A poll conducted by the FTC found that parents want more information than is currently provided by the MPAA's rating code, according to sources familiar with the draft report. The code makes age-based viewing recommendations but provides little information about the content of a movie.

Senate Commerce Committee chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., plans to conduct a hearing next month on the still-confidential FTC report.

Vice presidential candidate Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., a frequent Hollywood critic, has expressed interest in testifying but will make a final decision about doing so once he sees the results of the FTC investigation, according to Lieberman spokesman Dan Gerstein.

Brooks Boliek writes for The Holly-wood Reporter.

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