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LESS SLEAZE FOR KIDS THE PLAN: STUDIOS TO CURB MARKETING OF R-RATED MOVIES.

Byline: Bill Hillburg Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON - Hollywood's eight largest studios unveiled a 12-point plan Tuesday aimed at limiting the marketing of violent movies to children, but critics panned the plan as toothless.

Studio executives were expected to present the plan before the Senate Commerce Committee today during hearings investigating whether they intentionally advertised adult-rated films to children.

``We're taking a fresh look at the way we market our films and we're working hard and quickly to correct some of the sins of the past,'' Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Association of America, said during a news conference.

Commercial Alert, a group founded by activist Ralph Nader that has long called for reforms of all advertising aimed at kids, called the studios' plan a step too short.

``It's still self-regulation, which has always been a dismal failure. We need government intervention to protect our kids,'' said Gary Ruskin, director of Commercial Alert.

The studio plan, designed to ward off limits set by Congress, would:

--Ban attaching trailers for violent, R-rated films to G-rated videos and DVDs.

--Request that theater operators not show previews of R-rated movies in conjunction with their G-rated films.

--Ban persons under 17 from attending screenings or promotional activities for R-rated films, unless they are accompanied by an adult.

--Appoint senior executives to review all programs for compliance.

The initiative is expected to get a lukewarm reception today from the Senate Commerce Committee, which will take testimony from executives of the eight studios.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the panel, declined comment, saying he would respond to Hollywood's plan at today's hearing.

But aides to McCain said the proposal falls far short of the senator's previously stated demand that the entertainment industry shield all persons under 17 from marketing for R-rated fare.

Hollywood's marketing practices have been under fire since Sept. 11, when the Federal Trade Commission issued a study that charged the film, music and video game industries with violating their own ratings systems by marketing violent titles to children as young as 8 years old.

Tuesday's announcement covers the eight movie studios represented by Valenti and the MPAA. They are The Walt Disney Co., DreamWorks SKG, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, 20th Century Fox Film Corp., Universal Studios and Warner Bros.

Valenti said he expected other entertainment companies would follow their lead.

Critics noted that banning trailers for R-rated movies from playing with G-rated features would impact only a fraction of Hollywood's output.

Of the 613 films rated so far this year and listed on the MPAA's Web site, only 28 movies, or 4.6 percent of the total, were rated G. The 440 R-rated titles accounted for 73 percent of the total, followed by 106 films rated PG-13 (17 percent) and 39 rated PG (6.4 percent). The list includes movies for theatrical release and direct-to-video titles.

The proposal focuses on R-rated films because the FTC did not address movies rated PG (parental guidance suggested) and PG-13 (parents of children under 13 strongly cautioned), Valenti said.

``Anybody can get into a PG or a PG-13 picture and that's where parental control comes in,'' he said.

Valenti said the proposal does not include provisions for TV advertising for R-rated films. The studios' plan, however, calls for film Web sites, video packaging, print ads and movie lobby cards to prominently display R-ratings, as well as specific reasons why the film was given the rating.

Valenti said that controlling TV advertising ``is just not doable.''

``You've got too many variables and outlets. Obviously, we wouldn't advertise a violent movie during Saturday morning cartoons. But we might during the Super Bowl, and a lot of kids watch the Super Bowl.''

Valenti called the 12-point plan ``a rostrum on which all eight of the companies will stand'' and indicated that individual studios would soon be announcing additional marketing reforms. Disney has already announced that it will not show ads for R-rated films before 9 p.m. on its ABC TV network.

Critics said they hope Congress enacts stricter limits than the studios have proposed.

``It's too little, too late and a Band-Aid for a flawed rating system that's been around too long,'' said Daphne White, director of the Lion and Lamb Project, a Maryland-based group that lobbies against violence in media directed at children.

``I don't think Hollywood understands the basic problem when they say that parents have the main responsibility. We know that responsibility. We just don't like to have R-rated movies shoved in our 6-year-olds' faces.''

The Directors Guild of America looked with favor on the MPAA initiatives.

``The DGA is encouraged by the MPAA and the studios' willingness to address the issues raised in the Federal Trade Commission report regarding the inappropriate marketing of certain movies to children,'' the group said in a statement issued Tuesday. ``We look forward to sitting down with the MPAA to help make the ratings system more meaningful to parents and consumers, as well as filmmakers.''

Two weeks ago, the DGA called for an overhaul of the current ratings system and a ``zero tolerance'' policy toward underage admissions by theater owners.

CAPTION(S):

photo, box

Photo: (color) JACK VALENTI

Box: RULES FOR THE R
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 27, 2000
Words:866
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