A “parental advisory” sticker may warn parents about an album’s violent content, but it is not stopping the record industry from targeting such material at young America, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
The FTC will send out a “snapshot” report Tuesday which will provide a preliminary review of the marketing practices of the film, movie and recording industries, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The review stems from the 1999 Columbine High School shooting, in Littleton, Colo., during which two teen-agers shot and killed 12 students and one teacher before killing themselves.
After the attack, then-President Clinton asked the FTC to investigate whether the entertainment industry was marketing movies, music and video games with adult themes to children.
Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican who heads the Commerce Committee, is now overlooking the report, which will be the first of two follow-ups to a September review of the entertainment industry, Reuters reports.
According to the FTC report, the entertainment industry has made some progress. The report does single out the recording industry for doing virtually nothing to stop marketing violent materials to children, Reuters said.
In a November 1999 interview with MTV, shock-rocker Marilyn Manson said he turned into a “homebound recluse” after the media linked his music to the teen-agers responsible for the Columbine shootings.
Manson, who considered himself the “voice of individuality” in the 1990s, said people tend to associate those who look and behave differently with illegal and immoral activity.
“When I was wrapped up in the post-apocalypse of Columbine, and getting blamed for everything that was violent in the world, it was almost like a sick joke,” Manson said.
In May 1999, in a feature story on the Columbine he penned for Rolling Stone Magazine, Manson wrote he examined the America he lived in and he has always tried to show people that “the devil we blame our atrocities on is really just each one of us.”
Violence will always exist, said Debbie Bennett, general manager for Slip N Slide records in Miami.
“Honestly, the world is a violent place,” she said.
Bennett said that it’s not the record industry’s jobs to ban a musician’s freedom of expression.
“We are not the artist,” Bennett said. “We shouldn’t tell an artist what he can or cannot do,” she said.
If a musician encountered violence, then they should be able to relate their experiences in their work, she said.
“Sometimes music, movies and books are the only things that let us feel like someone else feels like we do,” Manson concluded in his Rolling Stone article.
The Recording Industry Association of America, which works to protect intellectual property rights worldwide and the First Amendment rights of artists, also has been criticized for its lack of an industry-wide standard sought by the FTC.
The RIAA encourages cooperation between record labels and their artists to determine what material should carry “parental advisory” labels.
Record labels cannot “dissect a song” or market any violent material, Bennett said, but they will market anything around it.
William J. Bennett, co-director of Empower America and a critic of violence in films, music and video games, recently signed a nonpartisan appeal through the Institute of Communitarian Policy Studies at the George Washington University alongside prominent Americans, such as Sen. McCain and Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.).
The appeal hopes to develop a voluntary code of conduct to establish standards on excessive violence directed at teens. Those involved believe that by choosing to do good, the entertainment industry will follow.
“We are not advocating censorship or wholesale strictures on artistic creativity,” the appeal reads. “We are not asking government to police the media. Rather, we are asking the entertainment industry to assume a decent minimum of responsibility for its own actions and to take some modest steps of self-restraint.”
McCain has said he will decide after the FTC report is released whether to hold more hearings on the subject, or whether to wait for a more in-depth report due out in the fall, according to his aides.