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Impact on Child Consumers

The Supreme Court decision, U. S. v. Southwestern Cable Co (1968), ruled that the FCC required authority over cable systems to ensure the conservation and distribution of service across the country (FCC: 2000, 1). In establishing a judicial foundation for the FCC’s authority to enforce acts of indecency in FCC v. Pacifica Foundation (1978), the Supreme Court emphasized the fact that broadcast media permeates society and once unexpected program content is heard, the damage is done.

Additionally, the Court recognized that broadcasting is available to children, and that the government has a concern in its youth, supporting parental control in the household warranted regulation (McCain, John, 2004, 1). Congress adopted the 1996 Telecommunications Act requiring all television manufacturers to install V-chip technology on all products by the year 2000. This V-chip circuitry is capable of identifying all programs with a common rating and blocking individual channels during selected time periods.

The Act required cable companies to block portions of programming to which the household does not subscribe. It also requires the entertainment industry to develop rules for rating programs that contain violent, sexual or other indecent material (FCC, June 2000, 11-12). On March 12, 1998, the FCC approved the industry’s proposed movie

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and TV Parental Guidelines which includes content indicators with respective meanings that warn viewers of media content.

These rating indicators include: (G) programs are suitable for all ages, (TV-Y7) designed for children ages 7 and above, (PG) programs contain some material that a large number of parents might find inappropriate for younger children, (PG-14) programs contain some material that several parents would find inappropriate for children younger than 14 years of age and usually contain intense; violence, sexuality, coarse language or suggestive dialogue. Rated (TV-MA) also known as rated (R) is specifically designed for adult audiences and therefore, may be inappropriate for minors under 17 years of age.

These programs contain graphic violence, explicit sexual activities, and crude indecent language. These rating icons and associated symbols appear for 15 seconds at the beginning of all rated programming. Programs that are aired on premium cable channels such as HBO, Cinemax, and Showtime are exempt from these ratings (FCC, June 2000, 11-12). On July 8, 2004, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a report to Congress on the marketing of media violence to children. The Commission determined that various industries continue to promote violent and explicit movies, games, and music in the media widely watched by youth.

The report also indicates that studios continue to advertise violent films on television shows watched primarily by adolescents, while other studios have begun promoting R-rated films in places likely to attract young teens. The FTC’s undercover investigations revealed that music retailers have made slight improvements in preventing sales of explicit-content recordings to adolescents, but that 83 % of teenage shoppers were successful in purchasing R-rated DVDs (Federal Trade Commission, 2004, pp 2-3).

Advertising to Children

Prior to the 1960s, advertisements geared toward children were primarily forbidden under a mutually agreed upon code of ethics. During the next decade the industry was flooded with the growth of goods designed for children and the beginning of aggressive marketing based on licensed images of children’s TV fantasies through children’s programming. Responding to a trend toward aggressive direct advertising to children, the FTC called for the elimination of commercials on children’s television in an attempt to protect them from excessive and manipulative advertising.

However, in 1980 Congress decided to suspend the FTC’s proposal to ban ads geared towards children (Cross 1997, pp 4). Current Regulations and Restrictions The Children’s Television Act of 1990 placed limitations on the amount of commercials that cable companies may broadcast on programs watched by children under 12 years old.

The act enforced new rules that prohibited cable companies from relaying more than 10.5 minutes of commercials on weekends and no more than 12 minutes of commercials during weekdays per hour during children’s programming. In addition, broadcasters are required to communicate only those advertisements that carry the same ratings as current programming ensuring consistency to the audience (FCC, 2000, pp. 15). In this context broadcasters would violate the act if they transmitted a commercial advertisement considered to be rated (R) on a channel designed for children’s (G) rated programs.

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