Big Brother is gunning for Music!
It didn't take Washington DC politicians long to grab onto a Federal Trade Commission report issued last Tuesday (April 24), that claims the entertainment industry continues to market adult-rated material to minors through television programs and in magazines with a large under-17 audience. Perhaps they were dreaming of the news-bites and editorials when former Vice Presidential candidate Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), former first lady Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wisc.) decided to cash in on the publicity of the issue by introducing a bill to the Senate that would allow the Federal Trade Commission to fine companies that intentionally market adult-rated material to children.
The bill, the Media Marketing Accountability Act would classify the marketing of adult-rated films, music and video games to minors as a deceptive trade practice. This would allow the FTC to issue fines up to $11,000 for each incident, by exposing a loophole in current law.
The ink had barely a chance to dry on the FTC's report before the Senators jumped into action. The FTC report was a follow up to last September's Marketing of Violent Entertainment to Children study which gave the entertainment industry six months to voluntarily change their marketing practices that target children for adult entertainment products.
The follow-up report issued last week states that although the film and gaming industry has adopted some measures to change these marketing practices, the entertainment companies, especially the music industry still continue to aggressively market products that are not suitable to minors in venues that cater to young people and continue to ignore any kind of rating system for music.
The thrust of the new Senate bill would impose a rating system on music, much like the one currently used for films. Under the Marketing Accountability Act the music industry would be responsible for developing a self-imposed rating system and guidelines for marketing "adult-rated" material and penalties for non-compliance.
While Sen. Lieberman tried to deflect criticism that this bill would in fact raise serious First Amendment issues, he wants to have his cake and eat it too by claiming that the bill asks only that the industry voluntarily rate their music products, set up marketing guidelines and face the music if they violate these voluntarily guidelines. This begs the question, what will happen if the record industry refuses to voluntarily impose these new measures? Will big brother make these provisions mandatory, thus sparking off a debate on freedom of speech and cries of censorship?
Lieberman countered these claims with the following: "Some will claim [the Marketing Accountability Act] is censorship," he said. "But the truth is we're not empowering the FTC to regulate content in any way or even to make judgments about what products are appropriate for children. We are simply saying that if you voluntarily label a product as being unsuitable for kids, and then turn around and market it in a way that directly contradicts that rating, you should be held accountable, just like any other company that misleads consumers.
This bill appears to be smoke in mirrors, sneaking in government's indirect censorship of music through the backdoor by calling it voluntary. The marketing of music that may be inappropriate to children is a serious problem, the Senators seem to be forgetting one important thing; it is the parents responsibility not the government's to determine what their children and can and can not listen to. This issue was debated in the Senate in the 80's when former Vice President, then Senator Al Gore held hearings on this issue. The result of those hearings was the voluntary warning stickering of music products that contain content inappropriate for children.
I would hope that the Senate would have better things to do than to revisit this divisive issue, with a sagging economy, medicare and Social Security facing an uncertain future when the baby boomer's begin retiring in the near future, these Senator's choose instead to make a political issue out of a parental responsibility. Today it may be music, but if the public accepts the proposition of the Government usurping this parental responsibility than what is next? You can call it voluntary all you wish, but it still boils down to the government exerting control over music and that my friends is censorship.
While it can be argued that the marketing of inappropriate material to children is a serious issue, the Libertarian in me hates the idea of government becoming involved, because a) this is really a parental responsibility issue, it is up to the parent's to regulate what their children do and do not listen to. B) Once the government because involved, even in the slightest way, through voluntary measures, it is only a matter of time before these politician's facing reelection determine that these "voluntary" measure have failed and it's time for the government to take a more hands-on role. This isn't a Democrat vs. Republican issue, politicians on both sides can see the political advantages of jumping on the band wagon to "protect children", but if they are successful they will have taken yet another step towards undermining the American family in favor of government taking yet another parental responsibility away. If this is in deed a government of the people and by the people, then let the people decide what is and isn't appropriate for their children to listen to. But to Washington DC politicians, the people can't handle that task, they need the Federal government to take charge because they do not trust parents to raise their own children.
You can call this what ever you like but
if the government steps in to regulate music content it is nothing more
than good old fashion censorship. The government isn't the answer, strong
parenting is! Don't let these Senator's take away yet one more responsibly
from parents, it won't accomplish their goals, but it will further the