WASHINGTON -- In response to a recent Federal Trade Commission report on the marketing of violent entertainment to minors, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., is calling on retailers to restrict the sale of video games.
He also said he intends to push for legislation requiring the FTC to review the entertainment industry's marketing practices annually for the next five years.
"We decided to take direct action by mailing letters to make our concerns known and call on [retailers] to accept responsibility for sales," Dan Gerstein, director of communications for Lieberman's office, told SN.
Meanwhile, Lieberman said he would put on hold the Media Marketing Accountability Act, a bill that would authorize the FTC to fine entertainment companies for marketing adult material to children. He introduced the MMAA in April in response to a September 2000 FTC report that concluded the motion picture, music recording and electronic gaming industries routinely marketed violent material to children under 17.
Gerstein said the Interactive Entertainment retailer trade group based in Wilton, Conn., also conveyed Lieberman's message to its members, which include discount stores and various specialty retailers.
Retailers said parents should take ultimate responsibility for monitoring their children's entertainment purchases.
"Go after the parents," said Jan Schreier, video manager, Prescott Supermarkets, West Bend, Wis. "If the parents are that concerned, they should go into the store [with their children]."
She said that at Prescott's stores, children must have a parent with them to rent movies or games, and only shoppers 18 and older are permitted to have a membership card in the first place. She said certain questionably mature titles have warning stickers on them.
The Dec. 5 FTC report, a follow-up to a report from last year that was sharply critical of the entertainment industry for marketing violent movies, games and music to children, said film and video game manufacturers showed improvement in limiting the marketing of violent entertainment to children. Retailers, however, have done little to restrict M-rated video game sales, the report said.
"I am troubled by the lack of progress on the retail front," Lieberman said in a prepared, written statement.
In an FTC secret shopper survey, 90% of the music retailers sold explicit content recordings to underage shoppers. The results showed little change from retail practices in the last study.
Electronic game retailers fared slightly better, with 78% selling M-rated games to underage consumers, vs. 85% that were found to do so in the previous report.
Mary Engle, project director for the FTC study, said the undercover shopper survey for electronic video games included discount stores like Kmart, Troy, Mich.; Wal-Mart Stores, Bentonville, Ark.; and Target Corp., Minneapolis. Supermarkets were not targeted.