Clinton Targets Video Violence: Calls for Study of Industry Ethics in Marketing to Children

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President Clinton, who last month soft-pedaled his criticism of Hollywood as he raked in $2 million for the Democratic Party in Los Angeles, yesterday announced a federal study into whether entertainment companies market violence to children.

"Our children are being fed a dependable daily dose of violence - and it sells," Mr. Clinton said in the Rose Garden, nearly six weeks after the massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado.

"We have got to quit fooling around with this. I know this stuff sells, but that doesn't make it right," he said.

The entertainment industry, meanwhile, accused Mr. Clinton of playing politics with the study, which Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican, first proposed as an amendment to a juvenile justice bill.

"The president stole an idea of Senator Brownback and is looking for a headline of the week," said Hilary Rosen, president of the Recording Industry Association of America, said in a telephone interview.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch released a statement welcoming Mr. Clinton and his "newfound interest" to the Republican fold.

Under Mr. Clinton's proposal, the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department will conduct a $1 million study of which entertainment firms market violence to children. The study could take 12 to 18 months, which means the results could come out in the heat of next year's presidential campaign.

The FTC has the power to subpoena documents. That means the study moves beyond rhetoric and pits Mr. Clinton against an entertainment industry that helped bankroll his presidential campaigns and his legal defense fund.

"One can value the First Amendment right to free speech and at the same time care for and act with restraint," Mr. Clinton said.

Mr. Clinton - who previously took on Joe Camel, calling the cartoon a symbol of tobacco marketing to children - yesterday held up print ads for video games, including one ad that invites players to "Kill your friends, guilt-free."

A cross-section of Republicans, such as presidential candidate Gary Bauer, have pressured Mr. Clinton to hold Hollywood accountable for what they term gratuitous violence in movies, television shows, video games and recordings.

"Our companies will certainly cooperate with the FTC. We have nothing to hide," Miss Rosen said. "We don't market violence to children. It's the White House's tactics I object to."

The Motion Picture Association of America, representing the movie industry, declined to comment on the proposed study.

Mr. Clinton's endorsement "will move the agenda forward," Mr. Brownback said yesterday in a telephone interview.

The senator warned that Hollywood may be reluctant to respond.

"All of their responses to date have been denial that there's any problem," he said.

Mr. Clinton thanked Mr. Brownback and Mr. Hatch, Utah Republican, as well as Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat, and Herb Kohl, Wisconsin Democrat, "for the bipartisan work they have done on this issue."

Mr. Clinton embarked on a national campaign against youth violence after the April 20 shooting at Columbine High School in which two students killed 12 fellow students and a teacher, then killed themselves.

The president was about to leave for Littleton, Colo., on May 20 when he learned that a high school sophomore with a gun in Conyers, Ga., wounded six fellow students at a high school.

First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton said the massacre at Columbine High School "pierced the heart of America. …