Rating Enforcement Vital
In Stemming Legislation
Keep The ‘Voluntary’
In The Voluntary System!
by Belinda Judson
Executive Director, Mid-States NATO
Summer is upon us and with it the increased
migration of adolescents to cinemas – not a bad
time to remember that the legislators are still watching.
As crowds swell,
the wise moviehouse operator is careful that the rating
system is enforced at all times.
How do we know lawmakers continue to focus
on exhibition? One need only look at the types and sheer
number of bills
proposed this year in our state capitols.
Seventeen states have proposals that would
prohibit the sale, rental or distribution to minors of
violent and sexually
explicit video and computer games. Many require that the
retailer display signage regarding the game ratings and/or
offer consumers information on the game-rating system.
Several of these bills propose criminal penalties for non-compliant
Fourteen states are mulling legislation
tied to obscenity. Several proposals concern the dissemination
to minors of
obscene or harmful material. Some of these are specifically
targeted to Internet posting, and could conceivably affect
what appears on exhibitor websites. Other measures we are
monitoring closely are a bit broader in scope and mention
material harmful to minors.
A few legislative pieces map out punishment
for the “offense
of obscenity.” A couple propose an admissions tax
on sexually oriented businesses.
Others deal with the use of underage actors
in productions depicting sex, and set age limits for performers.
New York’s many legislative pieces would specifically
prohibit the performance of any play, motion picture, dance
or other exhibition in which an under-16 actor plays a
character engaging in sexual conduct.
Also in New York we saw a proposal to restrict under-17
minors from films designated “R” or “NC-17” – regardless
of whether those minors are accompanied by a parent or
adult guardian. Along that same line, Texas has a bill
that would legislate trailer compatibility and provides
for civil penalties for those in violation.
Get the picture about the focus of our legislators?
In the past the voluntary rating system
has served as an invaluable tool to help exhibition – and its partners
at the Motion Picture Association of America – convince
lawmakers that there is no need in the movie industry for
legislative remedies. The longevity of the rating system
and cinema owners’ adherence to it helps convince
them that exhibitors are indeed good citizens and care
about the viewing habits of their patrons.
Cinema companies have been wonderful in
their help with this. They have aided with the dissemination
materials about the ratings, both at theatres and on company
websites, and have made giant strides in their enforcement
efforts. We applaud them for this and encourage them to
keep up the good work. They help keep the “voluntary” in
our voluntary ratings system!