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Gaming industry under fire .. again

Americans propose "Media Marketing Accountability Act"

The American gaming industry is under fire again, along with Hollywood and the music industry, for marketing violent and explicit products towards children, ignoring their own voluntary rating systems. Most of the flak has been attracted by the music industry this time as video games publishers and movie distributors have apparently made some progress since a damning report last year, although the bill's supporters are still not satisfied. "Some video game makers and movie studios, including those that have pledged not to unfairly target kids, are still advertising adult-rated products in places popular with young teens", according to Senator Joseph Lieberman, a long time crusader against violence in the media who was Al Gore's running mate during the controversial US presidential elections last year.

The new "Media Marketing Accountability Act" would allow the Federal Trade Commission to fine companies for marketing adult rated products towards children under the age of 17. Former First Lady Hillary Clinton denies that the bill amounts to censorship, insisting that "it plainly and simply tells those who market entertainment that they should not try to get kids to buy what [they] have already decided is too violent or sexual for kids to see or hear".

Ironically, the bill could have entirely the opposite effect to the one that Lieberman and friends are hoping for, as it will only allow fines to be levied against companies and industries that rate their own products as being only suitable for adults and then market them to children. Companies that don't rate their products at all can't be fined, which could lead to the end of the voluntary ratings system in the USA. It's possible that this is in fact the goal though, as according to the Associated Press "Clinton warned that Congress might implement its own standards if the industry should sidestep the legislation by discontinuing voluntary ratings or labeling". Doing this would give the American government more direct control over ratings and potentially allow them to be properly enforced.

Taking the bill at its face value though, the entire situation is a little ridiculous, as the problem is not that the entertainment industry is allegedly marketing adult rated products to children, but the lack of any real way of enforcing the existing age ratings. Until the American rating system is brought into line with the way it works in Europe and many other parts of the world, where ratings on games and movies can be legally enforced, there's little point in trying to tackle who companies may or may not be marketing their products to. After all, if a retailer could be fined for selling Mature rated games to children it wouldn't really matter who the publishers advertised them to...

Source - Rolling Stone / Associated Press