Washington -- President Clinton put the entertainment
industry on the defensive last week by ordering a federal investigation into the
industry's marketing of violent products to children.
In a Rose Garden ceremony last Tuesday, Clinton announced
that the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission would probe the
commercials and promotions of the movie, music and video-game industries.
Specifically, the probe is designed to determine whether
violent movies, compact discs and video games rated for adult consumers are actually being
marketed to children.
Clinton said the probe should also determine whether the
advertising is designed to undermine age-based rating systems. He called on retail vendors
and movie-chain owners to enforce ratings at the point of sale.
"Check the IDs, draw the line," Clinton said.
"If underage children are buying violent video games or getting into R-rated movies,
the rating system should be enforced to put a stop to it."
Clinton said children are awash in gratuitous fantasy
violence that is harmful to their emotional development and that spurs vulnerable children
to commit real violent acts.
Doug Lowenstein, president of the Interactive Digital
Software Association, the video-game industry's chief Washington lobbyist, disputed
the idea that violent games can trigger aggression in children. He said the vast majority
of titles "involve little or no significant violence."
Because nine out of 10 video games are purchased by adults,
Lowenstein added, the burden is on parents to supervise the video-game consumption of
"Keeping games not appropriate for children out of
their hands starts and ends at home," Lowenstein said in a prepared statement. The
IDSA vowed to cooperate with the DOJ-FTC probe.
The investigation is expected to take between one year and
18 months to complete, and to cost about $1 million. FTC chairman Robert Pitofsky said his
agency would, if necessary, use its subpoena power to obtain internal marketing records
Clinton's announcement represented a major break with
Hollywood -- a fertile source of money for his two presidential campaigns. But Clinton
decided to take a stand against violent products aimed at children after two teens killed
13 people at a Colorado high school in April before committing suicide.
Motion Picture Association of America president Jack
Valenti -- the voluble Hollywood lobbyist who seldom declines a media request -- refused
to comment on Clinton's order. Following a May 10 White House summit on youth
violence, Valenti said he found the presumption of guilt surrounding Hollywood to be an
Clinton called for the investigation three weeks after the
Senate voted 98-0 to demand an identical probe.
In his Rose Garden comments, Clinton thanked the senators
who pushed the legislation: Judiciary Committee chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Sam
Brownback (R-Kan.), Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) and Herbert Kohl (D-Wis.).