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Disney plans stronger rules for marketing R-rated films

The Walt Disney Co. issued guidelines on marketing its own R-rated films and handling ads from other studios on the Disney-owned ABC Television Network.

The guidelines were issued Tuesday, one day after the Federal Trade Commission accused the entertainment industry with aggressively marketing violent films, music and video games to young children.

So far, Disney is the only studio to respond publicly to the FTC's report and harsh criticism from Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore and his running mate, U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman.

Representatives from the major film studios declined to testify Wednesday at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the issue. Disney was the only company not included on a list of invited executives released Monday by the committee. It is not known why Disney was left off the list.

A company spokesman said Disney had been reviewing its marketing practices for the past few weeks in response to the federal government's increased scrutiny.

"It made sense to review what we were doing," said John Dreyer. "We probably can be a little more responsible. We can offer parents some better tools for judging what films to take their children to."

Disney said it will expand and strengthen its voluntary practices concerning the marketing of its R-rated films released under the Touchstone, Hollywood Pictures and Miramax Films labels. The company does not release R-rated films under the Walt Disney Pictures label.

Print advertising, trailers and Web sites will now include an explanation of why the film was rated "R" by the Motion Picture Association of America, the company said.

The company said it would not show R-rated films or films likely to receive the restricted rating to focus groups younger than 17. It said it would also urge theater owners to more strictly enforce the policy of denying access to R-rated movies to anyone 17 or younger unless accompanied by an adult.

Disney said ABC will not accept advertisements for R-rated films during prime time before 9 p.m.

That policy has been in place at ABC for some time, Dreyer said, but will be strictly enforced from now on. One exception will be football games broadcast live on the West Coast. ABC carries Monday Night Football, a program watched primarily by adults, Dreyer said.

Disney said it will not allow theater owners to show trailers for R-rated films on screens showing films released under the Walt Disney Pictures label.