Advertising Stickered CDs To Young Audiences Could Get Costly

New bill would allow FTC to fine labels who push mature material during the wrong time slot.

If two Democratic senators have their way, television ads for DMX or Blink-182 albums that run during after-school hours might bring thousands of dollars in fines for the offending record label.

A bill introduced Thursday (April 26) by Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman and Wisconsin Sen. Herb Kohl would allow the Federal Trade Commission to fine music, movie and video game producers $11,000 per day for each case where the FTC finds them targeting minors with ads for R-rated movies, M-rated games and music with parental advisory stickers.

Following an FTC report in September that found adult entertainment was being marketed to children, Lieberman vowed to introduce legislation if the entertainment industry didn't clean up its act.

"The senator called on the movie, music and video game industries to come up with an industry-wide enforcement system with real sanctions," Lieberman spokesperson Dan Gerstein said. "He gave them six months to do something before he would propose legislation. ... It's clear that the movie and music industry are not adopting new policies."

However, Lieberman did praise the video game industry for considerably scaling back on marketing M-rated (mature) games to people under 17, Gerstein said.

As an eager combatant in what he's called the "culture wars," Lieberman, who was Al Gore's running mate in last year's presidential race, has in the past condemned such rap and rock acts as Tupac Shakur, MC Eiht, Cannibal Corpse and Marilyn Manson.

The Recording Industry Association of America was quick to criticize the new bill, saying it might violate the First Amendment. Furthermore, the RIAA said, the bill would allow labels to be fined for violating the guidelines of the industry's voluntary parental-advisory stickering program and therefore may discourage labels from taking part.

But Gerstein said the bill includes provisions that would exclude any sector of the entertainment business that adopted and enforced voluntary guidelines.

The FTC issued a follow-up to its September report on Tuesday that accused the music industry of failing to make good on promises to curtail advertising to kids, citing ads for Rage Against the Machine, Blink-182 and DMX during prime teen TV viewing hours.

The report praised the movie and video game industries for their efforts and stopped short of calling for further regulatory action, concluding that "vigilant self-regulation is the best approach to ensuring that parents are provided with adequate information" to guide their children's entertainment habits.