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Gore, Clintons Blame Showbiz Industry for Excess Violence

By Mike Allen

and Ellen Nakashima

In separate time zones but with one message, President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore delivered a joint threat to the entertainment industry Monday that harsh regulation could come if the makers of explicit or violent movies, recordings and games do not stop aiming advertisements at children.

The two Democrats were responding to a Federal Trade Commission report, requested by Clinton last year and released Monday, which found that the entertainment industry is aggressively marketing violent movies music and games to children even though the material bears ratings or labels saying they are appropriate only for mature audiences. The industries agreed to such warnings in an effort to ward off a government-imposed system.

Gore, who took his presidential campaign to “The Oprah Winfrey Show” Monday and later lashed out at the music industry during a town-hall meeting here, said he would favor additional federal regulation if the entertainment industry cannot come up with a plan to mend their practices within six months. “It’s not about censorship -- it’s about citizenship,” Gore said on Winfrey’s show, the nation’s premier pulpit for reaching stay-at-home parents.

In striking at Hollywood, the Democrats were taking on one of their most reliable sources for financial support and at the same time opening themselves up to criticism that they lack credibility on the issue. It is a risk the Gore campaign made clear it was willing to take. Widespread polling shows that many Americans believe the country has lost its moral compass and that many parents feel their children are being bombarded by violent images.

“I call on these industries for an immediate cease-fire.,” Gore said at an elementary school here. “If parents are given the assurance by the industry that there’s going to be self-restraint and responsible corporate citizenship and then surreptitiously they’re putting ads in teen magazines and advertising on Saturday morning children’s programming underneath the parent’s radar screen, that’s just plain wrong.”

The year-long FTC study, ordered by Clinton in the wake of last year’s shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado, found, for example, that movie studios advertised violent movies on television during after-school hours, in high school newspapers and in comic books.

Clinton, campaigning in New York with his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, declared that the advertising strategy reported by the FTC is “if not illegal, then clearly wrong.”

Speaking before 130 parents and children at the Jewish Community Center in Westchester County, the president invoked Plato in urging the industry to act on violence in the media. “This is in some ways the newest of issues, in some ways the oldest,” Clinton said. “Plato said, ‘Those who tell the stories rule society.’”

If the industry fails to respond voluntarily, Hillary Clinton said she would support “appropriate action” to protect children, but did not specify what that would be.

Gore said he was he was not promoting changes in the content, saying that is protected by the First Amendment. But if after six months, the industry has not policed itself on its marketing practices, Gore said he may seek legislation.