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April 24, 2001 07:48am
Music Industry Slammed in New Report
Source: Reuters
by: Sue Pleming

(WASHINGTON) -- America's music companies were labeled the bad boys of the entertainment world on Tuesday in a federal report that said they had not done enough to stop the marketing of violent and lewd songs to children.

The Federal Trade Commission's follow-up study on the entertainment industry and its marketing practices was in response to a scathing September 2000 report that accused the entire sector of aggressively marketing violent and sexually explicit films, video games and music to kids.

FTC chairman Robert Pitofsky said he was disappointed with the recording industry but that the follow-up report showed the motion picture and electronic game industries had improved since last September and had ``enhanced self-regulation of their marketing practices.''

``Unfortunately, the music industry response, at least so far, has been disappointing in its failure to institute positive reforms to its self-regulatory structure,'' Pitofsky said in a statement.

Last September's FTC report on the entertainment industry was ordered by former President Bill Clinton after the massacre in April 1999 at Columbine High School in Colorado raised new concerns about the effect of violent entertainment on young people.

The report said all the five major recording companies placed advertising for ``explicit-content'' music on television programs and magazines with substantial under-17 audiences.

The music industry has been attacked for not providing ratings according to age for the sale of recordings with sexually explicit, homophobic, misogynistic and violent lyrics. Grammy Award-winning rapper Eminem has been held up as the poster boy for such lyrics.

The music industry defended itself against the criticism even before the report was released, saying in a statement overnight it was impossible to put age restrictions on music.

``Music is unique. For the same reason that there is no rating system for books, the works of musical artists are not rated by age or content specificity -- as it is virtually impossible to categorize words,'' said Hillary Rosen, president of the Recording Industry Association of America (news - web sites).

However, she said the industry supported the clear labeling of explicit material and that it had an effective program in place that was overwhelmingly supported by America's parents.

The report did not propose any specific actions to be taken against the industry, calling rather for self-regulation and pointing out that government intrusion raised important constitutional concerns.

``Because government intrusion in decisions about content raises important First Amendment concerns, self regulation continues to be the preferred solution to problems in this area,'' said Pitofsky.

Connecticut Democratic Sen. Joseph Lieberman is expected to introduce a bill later this week aimed at punishing firms that market violent media products to children.

The proposed legislation would target ``false and deceptive advertising'' of adult-rated films, music and electronic games to under-age audiences, an aide said.

The bill, co-sponsored by Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Herbert Kohl (news - bio - voting record), is likely to face opposition from Hollywood lobbyists who say it amounts to cultural censorship and is contrary to First Amendment rules protecting free speech.

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