FTC Attacks Music Industry for Marketing to Children

26 April 2001

The Federal Trade Commission has attacked the US music industry for failing to clean up its act by continuing to market adult-oriented products to children.

Seven months ago, the FTC blasted marketers of movies, video games and music for targeting violent products at under-17s. In a follow-up report, the body found that the film and game industries have taken limited steps to address the accusations.

However, the report also found that music marketers have barely acted at all, accusing the five largest record companies of advertising music which contains explicit content in magazines and on TV shows appealing to children. In one case, MTV’s Total Request Live, over half the audience for such ads were under 17.

“The music industry has not taken any visible steps with respect to explicit-content labelled music,” continued the report. “There has been neither self-regulatory guidance from the [Recording Industry Association of America] nor commitments from individual music companies to limit the placement of advertisements for music recordings stickered with the parental advisory label. The Commission's review makes clear that industry members continue to advertise explicit-content recordings in magazines or on television programs with substantial under-17 audiences.”

The FTC added that music companies were even failing to reveal in ads that a recording carried a parental advisory warning. It added that their response to earlier criticism had been to move away from an industry standard preventing such marketing to audiences where over half were children.

Meanwhile, the report found that the movie industry “has made some progress”, successfully removing ads for R-rated films from child-friendly magazines and cinemas when G-rated or PG-rated movies were being shown. Although the study acknowledged that more details on ratings are now available in ads and on film websites, it criticised the industry for airing commercials for adult films during teen-oriented TV shows.

The video game industry, on the other hand, was found to have removed commercials for M-rated games from unsuitable television programmes, but continued to run ads in gaming magazines with large child audiences.

FTC chairman Robert Pitofsky encouraged the industries to do more, urging against state intervention: “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,” he said.

A more comprehensive report is due in the fall.

News source: Advertising Age - Daily Deadline