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Clinton’s call to study marketing of violence ‘good news,’ Land says


WASHINGTON (BP)–President Clinton’s call for a federal study of the entertainment industry’s marketing of violence and other improper content to children is a “very, very positive step,” Southern Baptist ethics specialist Richard Land said.
The president requested the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice undertake research into whether and to what extent the movie, recording and video-game industries promote such material to children. Though they have ratings for their products, if “these industries market violent or other inappropriate materials, rated for adults, to children, then they undermine the effective functioning of the ratings systems,” Clinton wrote in a June 1 letter to the FTC and the Department of Justice.
“This is good news,” said Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, on “For Faith and Family,” the agency’s radio program. It is an important step when “even President and Mrs. Clinton are willing to bite the hand of the entertainment industry which has been feeding them so well … and are willing to speak out and say, ‘The entertainment industry is part of the problem, and we need to study the ways in which they’re marketing'” violence.
The announcement of the study came in the wake of the April shooting deaths of 12 students and a teacher by two young men, who then committed suicide, at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. Violent video games and movies reportedly were part of the killers’ entertainment consumption.
A few weeks after the shooting spree, Clinton spoke at a fund-raiser at the home of Dreamworks studio executive David Geffen in Los Angeles but did not chastise the entertainment industry at the time. Hollywood insiders have provided strong financial backing for Clinton beginning with his first presidential campaign.
“To any company that sells violent products, I say, children are more than consumers,” Clinton said in a Rose Garden ceremony at which his wife, Hillary, also spoke. “I understand nobody made anybody buy any of this stuff, but every day a responsible society declines to do some things for short-term gain that it can do.
“Don’t make young people want what your own rating systems say they shouldn’t have.
“One can value the First Amendment right to free speech and at the same time … act with restraint.”
The president challenged theater and video-store owners, as well as distributors, to enforce the ratings systems. “If underage children are buying violent video games or getting into R-rated moves, the rating system should be enforced to put a stop to it,” he said.
Studies have shown the average American child of 18 has watched 200,000 dramatized acts of violence and 40,000 dramatized murders, Clinton said. “Kids become attracted to it and more numb to its consequences,” he said. “As their exposure to violence grows, so, in some deeply troubling cases of particularly vulnerable children, does the taste for it.”
Sen. Sam Brownback, R.-Kan., was pleased at the president’s request for a study he already had sought in legislation adopted unanimously by the Senate in mid-May. Brownback’s amendment to a juvenile justice bill not only called for a FTC study but a National Institutes of Health study of the health effects of violent entertainment on children and the adoption of voluntary codes of conduct by the entertainment media.
“This is a modest, but necessary, first step towards encouraging a sense of corporate responsibility among some of the most powerful corporations in the world — corporations with incredible access to the minds” of American children, Brownback said in a written release of the president’s action.
Entertainment industry leaders reacted defensively to Clinton.
“We’re a fat, inviting target,” said Motion Picture Association of America President Jack Valenti, according to The Washington Post. “Politicians know that when you trash the movie industry — ‘it’s soiling the culture’ — your numbers go up.”