The Parents Television Council praised the efforts of Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) to secure answers from entertainment media CEOs about increased portrayals of smoking and tobacco use in TV shows, movies and streaming content, and the resulting deleterious impact on our nation’s youth.
In letters to the Chief Executive Officers of Amazon, Apple, AT&T, CBS, Comcast, Disney, Fox, Google, Hulu, Lion’s Gate, Netflix, Sony and Viacom, Sen. Markey requested details about tobacco imagery or dialogue, and their corresponding age-based content ratings for TV shows and movies. He also asked for children’s viewership data and corporate content standards for tobacco imagery, and he called for answers by May 6.
“Senator Markey’s letter is a bold reminder of the entertainment media’s irrefutable power to normalize and foment tobacco use, particularly for our children and grandchildren. We applaud the Senator for his leadership on this important issue, which is just the latest demonstration as to why the 22-year-old TV Content Rating System must be modernized,” said PTC President Tim Winter.
“Even as we speak, the FCC is in the middle of a regulatory review of that ratings system and its ostensible oversight. The entertainment industry’s lobbyists, including lawyers from the NAB, MPAA and NCTA, have proclaimed that the current ratings system works ‘just fine.’ But if the system was truly working for families, they would be alerted to depictions of smoking and tobacco use, as well as other harmful media content.
“Senator Markey’s letter cites a US Surgeon General’s report concluding that an R-rating mandate for tobacco use in motion pictures would reduce the number of teen smokers by one in five; and that up to one million lives could be saved. Think how many more lives could be saved if that same principle were applied across television and streaming media platforms.
“According to the American Association of Family Physicians’ position paper on violence in the media, ‘Some studies found the strength of association to be nearly as strong as the association between cigarette smoking and lung cancer, and stronger than the well-established associations between calcium intake and bone mass, lead ingestion and IQ, and failure to use condoms and acquisition of HIV.’ Contrary to the arguments of the entertainment industry lobbyists, this isn’t an issue about being prudish: this is an issue about the health and well-being of America’s children.
“We call on those corporate CEOs to answer Sen. Markey’s questions, and to adopt and embrace meaningful reforms to the current content ratings system so that it truly serves the needs of families, just as the system was originally intended.”