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FTC criticizes entertainment marketers in report

The Federal Trade Commission plans to release a report on Monday that harshly criticizes the film, recording and video game industries for marketing violent, adult-rated entertainment to young people, the New York Times reported, citing several unnamed officials familiar with the report.

The report concludes that, despite voluntary rating and labeling systems adopted over the years, all three industries have used marketing strategies to entice young consumers to buy products that the industries themselves deem inappropriate. They do this largely, the report contends, by placing advertising in publications and television broadcasts that appeal to youth.

In its recommendations, the FTC does not call for legislative remedies or tougher regulation, each of which could run afoul of First Amendment protections of free speech.

But the report does call on the entertainment industry to adopt stringent policies _ including the threat of sanctions _ that would prohibit the marketing of violent movies, recordings and video games to children. The report is said to encourage the industry not to advertise on television programs that are popular with children under 16 or in time slots when they are most likely to watch.

It also calls on producers and retailers to better educate the public about their rating and labeling systems. Individual retailers, it says, should enact rules, like those adopted recently by Kmart, Wal-Mart and Toys "R" Us, that prohibit the sale of mature-rated video games to anyone under 17.

The report also recommends that the industry not market to children any action figure from R-rated movies or M-rated video games.

While the report was tightly held this weekend, some on Capitol Hill said they had been informed of its essential thrust.

"There has been an ongoing, knowing, systematic marketing of adult-rated products to an underage audience," said Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., who called for the investigation. "It's along the lines of how Joe Camel is marketed to children."

Rep. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., who has also been active on the issue, said, "They are going to find that there has been a conscious targeting of children with violent media content."

FTC Chairman Robert Pitofsky will release the report on Monday morning. President Clinton plans to comment on the findings at an event in Westchester County, N.Y., later that day.

Clinton requested the review more than a year ago in the aftermath of the massacre by two teenagers at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., and after other school shootings where the assailants were thought to be desensitized to violence.