January 17th, 2008

Coalition to MPAA: Stop Marketing PG-13 Films to Young Children

By Josh Golin
Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood

Advocates for Children Urge MPAA to Comply with Recent FTC Recommendation for a PG-13 Marketing Policy

A coalition of nineteen advocacy groups is demanding that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) comply with the Federal Trade Commission’s recent recommendation for explicit restrictions on the marketing of PG-13 films to young children.  In a letter sent today to MPAA CEO Dan Glickman, the groups urged the MPAA to develop a policy that would restrict the advertising of PG-13 films on children’s television; prohibit restaurant toy giveaways or other food promotions aimed at young children for PG-13 movies; and insure that any toys released in conjunction with a film carry an age recommendation consistent with the film’s rating.

The letter was written and organized by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC).  This past summer, CCFC filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission that Transformers – rated PG-13 for “intense sequences of sci-fi action violence, brief sexual humor, and language – was being marketed extensively to preschool children through television advertising, food promotions and licensed toys.  Last week, the FTC acted on CCFC’s complaint by urging the MPAA to adopt guidelines for the marketing of PG-13 movies.

“Transformers is just one of a string of violent, PG-13 movies marketed to preschoolers,” said CCFC’s co-founder and director, Dr. Susan Linn. “For too long, the film industry has undermined its own rating system by bypassing parents to target young children directly with marketing for films that the industry itself has determined warrant parental caution.”

Between May 2006 and June 2007, the Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) publicly cited seven instances of PG-13 movies being advertised during children’s television programming.  In 2007, Spiderman 3, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, and The Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer featured licensed toys for children as young as four.  In 2005, the PG-13 blockbuster Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith featured toys for young children as well as a Burger King toy giveaway and several other food promotions that clearly appealed to preschool children, despite George Lucas’ public statements that the film’s violence and dark themes were inappropriate for children under six.

Tim Winter, President of the Parents Television Council said the PTC signed the letter to “send a message to the motion picture industry.  If the MPAA wants their ratings to mean anything, they must stop the hypocrisy of marketing potentially harmful violent and sexual themes to children while claiming to protect children with mature ratings.”

“It is distressing that the industry response to parental concerns about media content is almost always to place the full burden on parents,” said Cheryl Lanza of Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ, Inc., a signatory to the letter.  “These industry members essentially offer parents a Hobson’s choice: either expose your children to content that you find unacceptable, or withdraw your children from popular culture.  This serves no one. We all benefit with more mutual communication and understanding, not less.”

Added Dr. Linn, “Given the film industry’s consistent failure to respect parents as gatekeepers, it is disappointing that the FTC chose to rely on self-regulation rather than taking action.  We urge the MPAA to use this reprieve to institute a policy insuring that PG-13 movies are marketed in a manner consistent with their rating.”

The complete text of the letter to the MPAA can be found at http://commercialfreechildhood.org/mpaaletter.pdf.

The FTC’s recommendation can be found at http://commercialfreechildhood.org/ftcrecommendation.pdf

CCFC’s original letter to the FTC can be found at http://commercialfreechildhood.org/pressreleases/transformersftcletter.pdf

The letter’s signatories are:

Action Coalition for Media Education

Alliance for Childhood

Benton Foundation

Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood

Center for a New American Dream

Center for SCREEN-TIME Awareness

Commercial Alert

Concerned Educators Allied for a Safe Environment (CEASE)

Dads and Daughters

Hardy Girls for Healthy Women

Industry Ears

Kids Can Make a Difference

The Motherhood Project

National Institute for Media and the Family

Obligation, Inc.

Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ, Inc.

Parents for Ethical Marketing

Parents Television Council

Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children’s Entertainment (TRUCE)

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