On-Demand Entertainment: 13 Reasons Why Congress Should Revisit Regulations on the Entertainment Industry

Jennifer Bautista

             In the wake of the devastating 1999 shooting in Littleton Colorado, President Clinton asked the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) and the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) to study whether the movie, music recording, and computer and video game industries intentionally market and advertise entertainment media to youngsters that are inappropriate for children or otherwise warrant a parental advisory due to their violent content.[i]  In response to President Clinton’s request, the FTC published a Report in 2000 (“2000 FTC Report”) that concluded yes.[ii]

Entertainment media has long espoused violent content which, thanks to the advent of on-demand media, children have easy access to.  Children’s exposure to violent media content, especially at high concentrated levels, can cause a myriad of psychological, social, and health problems.[iii]  Nonetheless, the entertainment industry claims that its marketing and targeting of violent media to children is limited, and asks everyone to entrust their self-regulatory system.[iv]  Notwithstanding the clear conflicts of interest, the voluntary ratings program has found little success due to the entertainment industry’s failure to adequately explain the labels, and place them in its advertisements.[v]

Since the advent of Netflix, data mining capabilities allow the on-demand entertainment industry to target and influence young consumers like never before.[vi]  A revolutionary force, the changes brought on by the on-demand entertainment industry are of legal significance, as they demonstrate how the industry is quickly datifying individuals, and robbing them of their individuality, autonomy, and self.[vii]  On-demand entertainment demonstrates just how easy it will be for the entertainment industry to continue to target and influence children as the industry markets its highest-valued product:  violent media.[viii]

         The technological capabilities brought upon by on-demand media entertainment, with the entire entertainment industry’s unethical marketing and targeting of young consumers, warrant Congressional action[ix].  Further, these technological capabilities expose how the entertainment industries’ advertisements and marketing techniques warrant less constitutional protection under the commercial speech doctrine. As the entertainment industry works to turn individuals into data as pricing for third party advertisers, the psychological harms at stake demonstrate a clear abrogation of consumer protections and parents’ ability to limit their children’s exposure to such harms.

[i]                 Fed. Trade Comm’n, Marketing Violent Entertainment to Children: A Review of Self-Regulation and Industry Practices in the Motion Picture, Music Recording & Electronic Game Industries, 1 (Sept. 2000), available at https://www.ftc.gov/reports/marketing-violent-entertainment-children-review-self-regulation-industry-practices-motion [hereinafter 2000 FTC Report].
[ii].               See id. at 12.
                   [iii].              See Craig A. Anderson et al., The Influence of Media Violence on Youth, 4 Psychol. Sci. Pub. Int. 81 (2003).
[iv].              See 2000 FTC Reportsupra note 1, at 53.  “The motion picture industry…take[s] the position that targeting children is consistent with their rating and labelling programs…but violations are widespread.”  Id.
[v].                See In the Matter of Violent Television Programming and Its Impact on Children, 22 F.C.C.R. 7929 (2007).
[vi].               See Sarah Arnold, Netflix and the Myth of Choice/Participation/Autonomyin The Netflix Effect 49, ## (Kevin McDonald et al. eds., 2016).
[vii].              See id.
[viii].             See Netflix Subscriber Growth Continues Unabated, As Margins Improvesupra note 206.
[ix].               See In the Matter of Violent Television Programming and Its Impact on Children, 22 F.C.C.R. 7929 (2007).

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