TO THE STUDIO EXECS’ EARS:
After reviewing Hollywood’s marketing and advertising practices,
the Federal Trade Commission sent a letter to Congress stressing
the Constitution’s protection of the entertainment industry and
urging voluntary self-regulation by the studios, rather than federally
enforced sanctions. "The letter elicited a collective I-told-you-so
(and probably a sigh of relief) from Tinseltown types. "We
always believed that both the content and the marketing of movies
were protected under the First Amendment." E!
'significant legal limitations' and 'substantial and unsettled
constitutional questions,' FTC Chairman Robert Pitofsky concluded
that the agency would face considerable difficulties bringing
cases against Hollywood under existing federal trade laws."
Angeles Times 11/22/00
CENSORSHIP: It was a dull US presidential election. But the
one issue that seemed to get people stirred up was a discussion
of violence in the entertainment media. Not such an easy issue
to get one's arms around, though, writes Norman Lebrecht. "For
half a century the very word 'censorship' was so closely associated
with totalitarian regimes that it can no longer be uttered except
in inverted commas." Culture
TO WATCH: "A new British poll on film censorship suggests
four out of five viewers would rather censor their own viewing,
rather than watch poorly cut films. The study, Making Sense of
Censorhip, found that three quarters of those surveyed thought
cuts in movies shown on television were the least appropriate
methods of controlling content." BBC
ONE'S A WINNER: Hollywood had little to cheer about in Tuesday's
election. "Enthusiasm for the Democratic ticket ground to
a halt last week on studio lots when Lieberman sent a letter to
top movie and music execs reiterating the six-month ultimatum.
The missive barely acknowledged substantial changes the Motion
Picture Assn. of America (MPAA) and the major studios have recently
made in an effort to stop the marketing of violent, R-rated movies
to kids. Meanwhile, the GOP ticket has been unusually silent on
the Hollywood question. But should Bush be elected, Republicans
in Congress are expected to sway Bush to take a critical look
at media content and its effects on society." Variety
Hoping to avoid federal regulatory action after recent scoldings
from the Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s largest film trade
group has agreed to beef up its enforcement of the movie ratings
system with such measures as selective screenings of adult-themed
trailers and audience education. Inside.com
POLLUTING WHOM? "Vice President Al Gore has used the
phrase 'cultural pollution' in the presidential debates, and on
the eve of the presidential election on Tuesday the culture question
raised during the campaign hangs in the air: Is civilization really
going down the tube? No. And let's stop repeating this nonsense
before we actually come to believe it." New
York Times 11/05/00 (one-time
registration required for entry)
THIS - PLEASE! It's been 13 years since a conservative movement
succeeded in getting warning labels afixed to recordings thought
to be potentially offensive. And what's happened to labels? "These
days, if you mean business in the market, you'd better have a
sticker." The labels have come to signify edgier work and
- not surprisingly - that's the music kids want to listen to.
So what, really, is the point of labels? Pittsburgh
ON MOVIES: The US Senate committee that has been holding hearings
on violence and entertainment is not going to leave the movie
studios alone. "Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is expected to
ask the FTC to monitor closely and often how well the major studios
live up to promises to stop marketing violent movies to minors."
LONG ‘TIL ALL FILMS ARE "G"?
Are movie studios going to continue making as many adult-oriented
pictures if they can no longer market them as widely, given the
restrictions imposed by the latest political controversy over
ratings? Anyone who says that it won't (affect what gets a green
light) is being disingenuous."
RATINGS LIMBO: So what harm is having a ratings system that
warns parents about the content of movies? None, perhaps, but
for those movies that fall in the cracks of the "R"
or "NC" ratings it can mean the difference between being
seen and sinking to obscurity. And, of course, it's about the
money. Chicago Tribune
TO VIOLENCE? "Does popular entertainment corrupt young
people or not? Popular entertainment inspires lots of crazy, potentially
violent people to want to do lots of crazy, violent things in
America. But they have the same films, music and video games in
Europe and just as many crazy, potentially violent young Europeans
with presumably just as much subliminal desire to kill. But they
don't. We do. Why so much less copycat violence there? Are they
such morally superior people?"
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 10/15/00
WAR IS OVER? Eight years ago Pat Buchanan was calling a "cultural
war" in the United States. But this presidential campaign
"the blistering cultural issues of the early '90s - federal
funding of the arts, naughty pictures, tart-tongued, disrobed
performers - are on today's back burners. The anti-arts, far-right-wing
Buchanan voice lost. They thought it would be easy, the elimination
of the National Endowment for the Arts based on arguments of pornography
and blasphemy. And they lost." Philadelphia
BACK FROM UNIVERSAL RATINGS:
Some members of the US Congress want to grant the entertainment
business an antitrust exemption so a universal ratings system
can be established. But objections from members of both parties
make a vote on the issue increasingly unlikely.
RITE OF PASSAGE: For young people, a big part of the attraction
to violent or shocking popular culture is its rebellious nature.
The wish to shock and be shocked is a youthful right of passage.
"The youngster who loves Eminem today is, in many ways, the
descendant of the kid who loved Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard
in the '50s, or the Rolling Stones and the Doors in the '60s,
or the Sex Pistols and David Bowie in the '70s." Should the
US Congress really be trying to squelch it?
Los Angeles Times 10/08/00
VALUES" STILL GET VOTES:
Who exactly did John McCain think he was scaring last week when
he threatened to unleash another FTC investigation into Hollywood’s
marketing practices? Both Democrats and Republicans have a lot
to gain by keeping the issue in front of the media. "As both
parties scramble for each other's base, a momentum is building,
with each side pushing the other to apply the tourniquet more
tightly. The last time this happened, in the postwar era, the
result was bipartisan support for McCarthyism. Then as now, Hollywood
was a target." Village
CANDIDATES' POSITIONS ON THE ARTS: Where do George Bush and
Al Gore stand on the issue of federal funding for the arts? It's
a (little) hard to tell. Hartford
AGREE ON VIOLENCE AND MEDIA: Aren't politicians supposed to
disagree? So what's with all the concern over violence and the
entertainment industry? "When you actually look back through
the public record and study the candidates' various utterances
on this topic, the striking thing is how similar - virtually identical,
in fact - their stated positions are."
Hartford Courant 10/01/00
SHOULD BE IN THEATRES? "The
whole question of what should and should not be shown to young
people is one that can appear either simple or complex, depending
on how you look at it. Yes, it's true that each generation always
feels the next one is going too far, and that Elvis, ragtime and
even Jimmy Cagney's gangsters were condemned in their day. Yes,
it's not been proved to all scientists' satisfaction that violent
images do lasting damage. But you don't have to prove that violent
films directly cause mayhem to feel that constant vivid and explicit
images of supercharged hostility fed to children in particular
and society in general do a lot more harm than good."
Los Angeles Times 10/02/00
THE REAL TARGET? "The same
government that's failed to impose consumer product safety or
advertising standards for marketing guns to kids is now firing
on Hollywood for doing the same with films. In blasting away at
violence, the government has diverted its ammunition to Hollywood,
while the real target hasn't been hit."
Los Angeles Times 10/02/00
ISSUE WITH LEGS: US Senator John McCain isn't finished with
the entertainment industry. A day after this week's Senate hearings
on violence and entertainment, he says the studios have not gone
far enough on the issue and that he'll delve further into the
FTC report on violence. "John McCain gets his teeth into
something and doesn't let go."
GOT OUR ATTENTION": Hollywood studio execs appear before
Congressional hearings on violence and the entertainment industry.
"All eight studio executives who attended the hearing agreed
to follow a set of 12 voluntary guidelines issued the day before
by the Motion Picture Association of America. Those rules include
not showing previews for R-rated movies before a G-rated film;
not 'knowingly' including children under 17 in audiences for research
screenings unless they are accompanied by a parent; and seeking
ways to include the reasons for a movie's rating in advertisements
and packaging, such as noting excessive violence or sexuality.
Washington Post 09/28/00
TO MOVIE EXECS: "If the industry doesn't take additional
steps to keep violent films away from young children, "you're
going to see some kind of legislation," said Sen. Kay Bailey
Hutchison, Texas Republican. "I'm sending a signal across
the bow." Washington
TO EXECS: After studios promise
to try harder on ratings Senate panel chairman John McCain remained
unconvinced: ''My friends, that language is not good enough because
it leaves a subjective judgment and some very bad subjective decisions
were made in the past.'' Inside.com
TO BLAME: The Gore/Liberman attacks
on Hollywood miss the mark. "The premise behind the argument
once made by Cheney and Robert Bork, and now by Lieberman and
Gore, is that the marketing of violence and sex to children leads
to higher levels of teenage violence, sex, drug use, illegitimacy,
social breakdown, and so on. But even a cursory glance at reality
shows that the opposite is true. The era that has seen the popular
culture ratchet up its drug-addled, bigoted, violent messages
to new levels of depravity has also seen one of the sharpest declines
in teen violence, sex, and drug use ever. If corporate America
is out to poison our children's minds, it's failing in spectacular
fashion." The New Republic
A BONE: On the eve of the next round of US Congressional hearings
on violence and the entertainment industry, movie studio executives
propose to "stop advertising for R-rated movies during television
shows that tend to attract viewers under 17. There would also
be a ban on previews for R-rated films at G-rated movies."
Washington Post 09/26/00
THE UNPOPULAR: "According
to a recent poll by Mark Penn, only about fifteen percent of the
American public believes the First Amendment protects Hollywood
movies from any government action. More incredibly, twenty-two
percent of the public supports government content restrictions
on movies that would, if enacted, constitute blatant constitutional
violations. Recalling that one of the First Amendment's purposes
is to protect unpopular speech, one may wonder how the Amendment
itself became so unpopular." Findlaw
BOTTOM LINE: "How should an entertainment company balance
the demands of profit-making versus good corporate citizenship?
It's no secret that we live in an era when the demands of Wall
Street dominate entertainment company decision-making. The Oscars,
Emmys and Grammys are a once-a-year gold medal for corporate responsibility.
The rest of the year, we celebrate the corporate gunslingers who
boost their company's value - and we demand the heads of the losers
who lag behind in profits."
Los Angeles Times 09/25/00
THIS: "A week ago, Congress used its authority to force
the major television networks to explain at a hearing their marketing
of violence to children. Rep. Solomon Ortiz, D-Texas, chairman
of the arts and entertainment caucus, says similar tactics could
be used to have the networks explain why there are so few Latinos
on TV shows." Nando
The US Representative
who would chair the House subcommittee on telecommunications if
the Democrats win control of Congress this fall says he's in favor
of regulating content of the entertainment industry. "I think
there could be a very strong case made for a universal rating
system for everything but television." Wired
UP: The first of what promises to be many lawsuits against
the entertainment industry in the wake of the US's FTC report
on violence and the entertainment industry was filed in Los Angeles
by a group called Citizens for Fair Treatment. "The
complaint, which seeks class-action status, accuses the companies
of deceptive, unfair and unlawful business practices." Inside.com
ENTERTAINMENT: US Senate Commerce Committee passed a bill
Wednesday that would ban "graphic bloodshed or gratuitous
violence" on television during daylight hours. Other lawmakers
expressed constitutional concerns about the measure.
Orange County Register (AP) 09/21/00
Congress discusses giving the entertainment industry an antitrust
exemption so the industry could get together to determine standards
on violence. Entertainment industry isn't so sure it wants the
AND LIEBERMAN GO TO HOLLYWOOD: Speaking to a Hollywood audience,
the candidates tried to be reassuring about their attacks on the
entertainment industry. "The industry has entertained and
inspired and educated us over the years. And it's true from time
to time we will have been, will be, critics, or noodges, but I
promise you this: We will never never put the government in the
position of telling you by law, through law, what to make."
New York Times 09/20/00
(one-time registration required for entry)
MOTIVES: Joe Lieberman's "crusade against the entertainment
industry has presented an otherwise boisterous campaign with a
sometimes tense and sober balancing act. Is it brazen hypocrisy?
Or is Lieberman simply not afraid to scold his wealthy Democratic
friends when he disagrees with them even as he takes their contributions?"
Los Angeles Times 09/20/00
AND THE CULTURE WARS: If George W Bush goes to the White House,
Lynne Cheney may well lead a revival of those eighties culture
wars. The former head of the National Endowment for the Humanities
has been an arch foe of the agency she formerly headed, and she's
being touted for a cabinet position if Bush wins.
OF CENSORSHIP: US Senator John McCain is leading hearings
on violence in entertainment. But he disagrees with presidential
candidate Al Gore on regulating the entertainment industry. "Before
we embark on censorship we'd better make very sure where this
Nando Times (AP) 09/17/00
ATTACKS CONGRESS: Studio heads might not have wanted to talk
to Congress about violence and the entertainment industry last
week, but those who actually make the movies weren't shy about
expressing themselves: "In all honesty, I think what
they're doing is reprehensible. What they should be doing is focusing
on why there is less of a family structure in America today. Instead,
they attack us. These guys attack the easy issue because the hard
issue doesn't make for such big headlines for them."
New York Times 09/18/00
registration required for entry)
DOESN'T SUPPORT PREMISE: "While there's no question that
popular culture has been getting increasingly violent and lurid
with every passing year, consider this: According to the most
recent National Crime Victimization Survey, violent crime - including
violent crime committed by juveniles - is now at its lowest point
since the federal government started tracking such trends in 1973."
TO DO SOMETHING: "When four prominent national health
organizations banded together recently to condemn the "measurable
and long-lasting" effects of media violence on children,
which they found can "lead to emotional desensitization toward
violence in real life," and when a Federal Trade Commission
report about how that material is marketed to children leads to
Senate hearings that call Hollywood bigwigs to the carpet, something
is clearly wrong."
Los Angeles Times 09/18/00
BETTER RATINGS: Eight prominent Hollywood directors advocate
scrapping the current movie ratings system, saying that it is
unworkable. In its place, they propose a ratings system that would
apply to all popular culture.
THE ATTACK: A long parade of lawmakers testified before the
Senate Commerce Committee Wednesday in response to this week’s
FTC report attacking Hollywood’s marketing violent content to
children. VP nominee Joseph Lieberman decried a “culture of carnage”
and urged the industry to self-regulate itself, or face government
WHAT IF YOU HELD A HEARING AND NOBODY CAME? Not one of the
film industry executives invited to participate in Wednesday’s
hearing showed up. John McCain was livid, demanding the absentees
(including Michael Eisner, Rupert Murdoch, and Harvey Weinstein)
show up for a follow-up hearing in two weeks. Salon
YOU'RE RUDE: Hollywood execs, meanwhile, said that Senator
McCain "showed his absence of manners by inviting them Friday
night to show up on short notice without ever having had time
to study the report. A spokesman for one of the studios, in fact,
said no invitation to appear was ever received."
TAKES AIM AT ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY: "This Big Tobacco-type
drubbing comes from the Clinton-Gore administration just 28 days
- long enough for the checks to clear? - after the same entertainment
industry whooped the city of Los Angeles into one, huge week-long
fund-raising party for Hillary Clinton, Al Gore and the Democratic
UP - CONGRESSIONAL HEARINGS: "Wednesday, Lynne Cheney,
wife of GOP vice presidential nominee Dick Cheney and a longtime
leading figure in the culture wars, will be called to testify.
And she is only the latest high-profile figure from both parties
eager to take part in what is shaping up to be such a congressional
gangbang that representatives from the entertainment industry
have decided to pull out of the hearings."
OUTCOMES: Expect protests from the entertainment industry
and a lot of grandstanding from politicians, but don't expect
any legislation. The entertainment industry will remain self-regulated,
but it will be encouraged to get a lot better at that self-regulation.
If it doesn't, it will face a full-on assault, much like the tobacco
industry has faced in the last several years. Inside.com
Al Gore and Joe Lieberman issue an ultimatum to the entertainment
industry: "Mr. Gore said he would give industry officials
six months to 'clean up their act.' If they do not, and if he
and Mr. Lieberman win the November election, the vice president
said he would encourage the Federal Trade Commission to move against
the industry by using its power to prohibit false and deceptive
Times 09/11/00 (one-time
registration required for entry)
PONDERS DAMNING REPORT: Hollywood was busy digesting Monday's
report by the US Federal Trade Commission on violence which concluded
that "the movie, music and video game industries undermined
their own rating systems by advertising to audiences for which
the content is deemed inappropriate."
DONS: Attorney General Janet Reno said Tuesday that organized
crime's intellectual property infringement should be prosecuted
as vigorously as other serious crimes like drug trafficking and
money laundering. Recent busts (like last week’s in New York in
which 35,000 counterfeit CDs were seized) have shown organized
crime’s turn from drugs to software for profits. Wired
RETAILERS TO POLICE ENTERTAINMENT CONTENT: This week Congress
is due to release a report on violence and the entertainment industry
and accompany the report's release with hearings. In advance,
retailers are clamping down. "Kmart said Thursday that it
will refuse sale of mature-rated games to anyone under age 17,
using a bar-code scanner that will prompt cashiers to ask for
identification from young people. After Kmart's news conference
in Washington, Wal-Mart said it will enact the same policy, and
in a letter last month, Toys R Us officials said the practice
is in place at their stores."
Chicago Sun-Times 09/10/00
R US: The US Senate is holding hearings next week on
violence in the entertainment industry. The buzz is about what
Hollywood film executives might be hauled in to testify. Inside.com
THE MONEY: The entertainment industry is pumping big money
into politics. "The Democrats have collected $5.8 million
from the television, movie, and music industries, ranking it fourth
on the campaign donation list. That figure outpaces the Republicans
by $2.1 million, which ranks the entertainment industry eleventh."
The money figures to influence policies on recording, intellectual
property and content regulation.
TO TESTIFY: US vice-presidential candidate Joe Lieberman will
testify as early as Sept. 13 about a Federal Trade Commission
report that reportedly claims "that film, record and video
game producers are pushing their wares on children while pretending
not to." The Gore campaign is unfazed: "I think he's
brought to the ticket some real credibility on this issue. And
it's an issue that's real important to people, especially to families.
And where you find this level of concern is with working families
- families where both parents are working, and the kids have a
lot of time on their own where they're unsupervised."
SENATOR AND ART: US VP-candidate Joe Lieberman's criticism
of popular culture has free-speech advocates worried. But he's
also a supporter of government funding for the arts. "To
have strict restrictions, having the government being judge and
jury of what's acceptable art, (Lieberman) doesn't believe that's
an appropriate role for government.''
Boston Herald 08/28/00
WAY TO THE CULTURE WAR? Attacking culture is usually good
for a few votes. But so far the candidates in this year's US elections
have been generally quiet. "Sen. Joseph Lieberman's selection
as Al Gore's running mate prompted a flurry of Hollywood hand-wringing,
but so far the vice presidential nominee has spent more time attacking
George W. Bush's tax-cut plan than the way women are tortured
in 'The Cell'."
Los Angeles Times 08/28/00
POLITICS OF MONUMENTS: "For reasons no one has satisfactorily
explained, a few well-placed, influential men - apparently chief
among them J. Carter Brown, chairman of the Commission of Fine
Arts, and Bob Dole, former senator and Republican presidential
nominee, now national campaign chairman of the World War II Memorial
- are hellbent not merely on building a memorial but on building
one of surpassing ugliness and placing it right in the heart of
the National Mall."
Washington Post 08/28/00
OVER ARTS FUNDING: "The Esperanza Peace and Justice Center,
founded in 1988 to support illegal aliens and homosexuals, established
an arts program in 1990. It is suing the city because it claims
the city council's decision in 1997 to eliminate taxpayer funding
for its arts program was political."
A WAR... They don't have Communists, and the drug war has
gotten old. What's the next "great" issue? "With
three major combatants in the nation's culture wars closely tied
to the race, the assault on sex, violence, and sensationalism
in the entertainment industry is now very much a bipartisan venture.
'These censorship crusades are quite cyclical. There may be some
differences ideologically in terms of what Lynne Cheney would
want to censor and what Al and Tipper Gore want to censor. But
I'm not aware of any significant differences'.''
Boston Globe 08/20/00
WARS, ROUND II: "Around the country, think tanks, foundations,
academics and researchers are drawing up a wide range of empirical
evidence designed to defend and define the civic role of culture
in America. And by culture they don't just mean art in a museum
or music in an orchestra hall. Culture, they say, includes everything
from fine art to movies and pop music, parks, historic monuments
and architecture - the essential fabric of our lives. And, they
say, government needs to pay fresh attention. Witness the birth
of the cultural policy movement."
VS THE ARTS: "None of us wants to resort to regulation.
But if the entertainment industry continues to move in this direction,
and continues to market death and degradation to our children,
and continues to pay no heed to the real bloodshed staining our
communities, then the government will act." The government
will act: To many people, even those who agree that the contemporary
entertainment world is objectionably coarse and crude, those words
are almost as menacing as the tip of a bayonet in the small of
Chicago Tribune 08/18/00
WHO'S TO BLAME GAME: Joe Lieberman gave his speech to the
Democratic Party convention Wednesday and didn't slam Hollywood.
But he sent pal William Bennett to speak on a panel in his place
across town. Bennett decried the "morass of sex and vulgarity
promoted by Hollywood" and "reiterated that the entertainment
industry is responsible for 'the degradation of our culture' and
that movies, TV and music have led to 'a debasement of the moral
TO THE RIGHT? A longtime critic of the entertainment industry,
U.S. Democratic vice presidential candidate Joseph Lieberman on
Sunday accused Hollywood of corrupting the nation's children and
the culture at large. He singled out Walt Disney Co. as particularly
lax morally and warned that Washington could impose “legal restrictions”
if the industry doesn’t impose some of its own. “Look, I love
the movies. I love music, but there is still too much violence,
too much sex, too much incivility in entertainment.” Yahoo!
News (Reuters) 08/13/00
BURNING BRIDGES? “Two
days after Al Gore's Lieberman announcement, a lot of people in
[Hollywood] were absolutely reeling. Was Joe Lieberman one of
ours or was he not? Is a milestone civil rights breakthrough worth
the price of a Silver Sewer award?” Salon
TARGETS: "There are three people truly disliked by Hollywood.
John McCain, conservative moralist William Bennett and Joe Lieberman.
That's because each has sought the spotlight to further his own
career by picking on an easy target — the pop culture spewed out
by television, movies, music and video games. Most of the culture-war
cackling from these three heats up during an election year. It's
a no-brainer for politicians: TV equals filth. We need guidelines
— like ratings, a V-chip and content concessions from Hollywood
producers. That Lieberman is now in the running to become vice
president is not good for those who oppose censorship."
San Francisco Examiner 09/10/00
CRUSADER: On Tuesday US VP-candidate Joe Lieberman, "a
culture warrior considered one of the moral voices of the Senate,
promised supporters that the Democratic Gore/Lieberman ticket
would help parents 'raise PG kids in an X-rated society.' He praised
Vice President Gore's wife, Tipper, for having had the courage
to speak out against certain music lyrics, a move for which she
was widely blasted in the 1980s."
Washington Post 08/09/00
TV CRITIC: "Lieberman, like a lot of us who actually
watch the TV we rip, wants content changes. But when the government
threatens to get involved in that sort of thing, it smacks of
demagoguery. No matter. TV critic Lieberman is always good for
an opinion." Chicago
LIEBERMAN FACTOR: US VP-candidate Joe Lieberman has been tough
on the entertainment industry. How tough? "He told
Daily Variety last year that shows like 'Friends' should
be relegated to late night because of their raciness. Variety
OF THE NATION? Hollywood is pondering the possibility of Joe
Lieberman becoming vice-president of the US. "Lieberman is
widely regarded as 'the moral conscience' of the Senate and has
continually blasted TV, movies and the recording industry for
featuring too much sex and violence."
ASSET? Dick Cheney is George Bush's running mate, but of interest
to cultural people is his wife Lynne, who was chairperson of the
National Endowment for the Humanities in George Sr's administration.
When she left NEH, though, she attacked it. Cheney appeared on
ABC's 'This Week' last Sunday, "and told interviewer Cokie
Roberts that she had tried to eliminate the agency because 'the
Endowment, under the Clinton administration, evolved into something
outrageous,' and that 'it was such a misuse of taxpayer money.'