HITS Daily Double
"The very nature of this proposal raises serious constitutional red flags."
—Cary Sherman, RIAA Sr. Exec. VP/General Counsel


Media Marketing Act Proposes Fines For Entertainment Companies That Market Adult-Rated Products To Children
All right, you sleaze-peddling scumbuckets, here’s your tax dollars at work:

The Federal Trade Commission’s report slamming the entertainment industry for marketing "adult" material to kids was only the beginning. Today, Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman introduced the Media Marketing Accountability Act, a piece of legislation that would extend the FTC’s ability to bring action against businesses that engage in false and deceptive advertising practices to include "marketing adult-rated products to children."

While we’re sure the former Democratic VP candidate is concerned about China feuding with Dubya or the unstable stock market, this is where he’s chosen to make his stand. Before you get pissed off for no good reason, here’s a summary of the bill, so you can be pissed off for a few good reasons:

With the FTC report as a pretext, Lieberman and company charge the music industry with lagging behind the video game biz in correcting marketing practices that pitched "heavily violent" content to consumers under age 17.

By deeming such marketing "false and deceptive advertising practices," the proposed law would give the FTC authority to impose civil fines against entertainment companies.

The bill would bar companies from pushing adult-rated content directly to minors, marketing said materials in venues where kids are a "substantial proportion" of the audience, or "targeted to minors" as determined by the FTC. [Emphasis added to make you more paranoid.]

The definition of adult-rated with respect to music is "explicit content"--we just wanted to be really explicit about that.

The FTC is authorized to dole out fines up to $11,000 per day, per offense, depending on the "nature of the violation." This is in addition to cease-and-desist orders and other tools of intimidation wielded by the Man.

A "safe harbor" provision in the bill would protect companies that enforce self-imposed ratings systems designed to keep such materials from minors.

If enacted, the bill’s ban on marketing nasty stuff to minors would take effect within 90 days. The FTC would have a year to develop rules for fulfilling the bill’s specifications, if you know what I mean. The FTC would also be required to issue a report within two years of enactment. Hooray, more reports!

Still with us? Wow, are you a glutton for punishment. Anyway, Lieberman’s office is at pains to say that the bill would not regulate content in any way, but is rather intended to go after the way products are marketed, not the products themselves.

The marketing to minors angle is the same tactic that was used successfully to severely restrict tobacco advertising. Yet, while it’s a relatively simple matter to declare a ban on outdoor advertising for Marlboro, it’s another matter to control the multitude of avenues by which music reaches youngsters. Meanwhile, drawing the distinction between marketing and free access is, you should pardon the expression, a bitch. Is radio play "marketing"? What about viral marketing? Huh, what about it? Huh? No answer? That’s what we thought. Now go make me a sandwhich, ’ho.

RIAA Senior Exec. VP/General Counsel Cary Sherman issued a statement, saying that the RIAA hasn’t reviewed the details of the bill, but "at a minimum, however, the very nature of this proposal raises serious constitutional red flags." He quoted from the FTC’s report in which it said, "Because of First Amendment issues, ‘vigilant self-regulation is the best approach.’"

We’ll continue to cover this festering boil of an issue until it finally pops. Or Billboard Bulletin finally gets around to writing about it.

Simon Glickman & David Simutis