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Music Industry Fails Test

The major music labels stand out from the rest of the entertainment industry by continuing to aggressively market lewd and violent material to children, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

In its latest review of entertainment industry marketing practices, the FTC found that the music industry has done little to restrict marketing aimed at children, while the movie and video game industries have slightly curbed the practice.

The commission is "disappointed by the almost complete failure of the music recording industry to institute any positive reforms," it said in its report, released Tuesday.

"All five major recording companies placed advertising for explicit content music on television programs and in magazines with substantial under-17 audiences" – with children under 17 making up more than half of some of those audiences.

Further, the FTC charges that the music industry has not visibly responded to the commission's previous reports, nor has it implemented the guidelines set out by its own trade association, the Recording Industry Association of America.

Hilary Rosen, the president and CEO of the RIAA, concurred with the FTC review. "We agree that we need to do a better job of following our own guidelines," she said in a statement. "But, it's important to note that we do have guidelines in place and that they are overwhelmingly supported by parents."

The RIAA adds that it has recently strengthened those guidelines by including a parental advisory for explicit recordings in print advertising and establishing uniform rules for on-line retailers.

"Unfortunately, the FTC report followed too quickly on the heels of our implementation of these new efforts," said Rosen.

The "single positive note" on the activity of the music industry, according to the FTC, is that almost 40 percent of industry Web sites included song lyrics, "a step that can help parents screen recordings."

Tuesday's review of entertainment industry advertising practices is a follow-up to the FTC's initial report from last September, when it answered a request from President Clinton and members of Congress to investigate the marketing of inappropriate material to children in light of the Columbine High School shooting.

In that harshly worded report, the FTC found that, across the board, the movie, video-game and music industries marketed products inappropriate to children in places where kids made up a substantial portion of the audience.

In the new report, the movie industry fared better, getting high marks for improving its marketing practices. The FTC found, as compared to the first review, "virtually no advertisements for R-rated movies in the popular teen magazines reviewed."

Beyond that, the motion picture studios have begun to include reasons for ratigs in both print and television ads, a practice the government has supported to better educate parents about the content of the entertainment their kids are viewing.

The video game industry has also made improvements, said the FTC, by not advertising games for mature audiences on popular teen television programs, and by identifying their rating and content descriptions in print ads. However, M-rated games continue to be marketed in magazines with high under-17 audiences.

Though pleased with the progress made by movie and video-game producers, "more remains to be done by each industry," says the commission, which worries that marketing practices undermine the industry's own ratings systems.

"The industries should avoid advertising their products in the media most watched and read by children under 17," says the FTC, urging that "vigilant self-regulation" by the entertainment industry is the best approach to help parents protect their children from violent and explicit media.

The review did not, however, include information on children's access to these products at the retail level.

While the FTC continues to deal with this issue, he Senate Commerce Committee has requested another, more comprehensive follow-up report, due in the fall, which will include information on individual industry members.

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