Friday, August 28, 2009

Transformers and FCC Content Filtering Inquiry

The Transformers movies have been caught up in a content filtering inquiry by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that is being done for Congress. Apparently the goal is to come up with a compendium of all the various blocking, filtering and rating devices used by the various entertainment industries. As a result the many lobbyists are coming out of the woodwork to add their two cents. From Ars Technica:
Earlier this month the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood filed a response to a key question in the FCC's NOI—"the extent to which inappropriate commercials [are] aired in programming viewed by children and on possible solutions to this problem." CCFC was happy to oblige, updating the agency on one of its key campaigns. The group, a coalition of 30 media reform organizations, wants the Federal Trade Commission to "ensure that PG-13 movies are not marketed to young children." Bottom line: CCFC has asked the Motion Picture Association of America to limit television advertising of PG-13 movies to shows where over half of the viewers are thirteen or over, or just set 9:00pm as the "watershed" for the promotion of these films. That would put the ceiling an hour earlier than when TV stations can broadcast fare that the FCC defines as indecent.

CCFC complains of a phenomenon that it calls "ratings creep." Your typical PG-13 movie these days is more violent and sexual than it used to be, the group says. "In other words, many of the PG-13 films that are routinely marketed today to children as young as seven—and often marketed to preschoolers—are films that would have been rated R fifteen years ago." On top of that, parents have no tools that filter commercials for these movies, and "are left without any options by the current regime."

High on CCFC's list of disliked films are the Dreamworks productions Transformers and its recent sequel, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. The advocate launched a veritable crusade against the marketing of the first film in the summer of 2007. CCFC's protest against the campaign pointed out that despite its MPAA PG-13 tag—"intense sequences of sci-fi action violence, brief sexual humor, and language"—the public has been treated to a tsunami of Transformer toys, games, themed Lunchables, lollypops, and gummy candy. Ads for these items and more have been shown on children's shows like Fairly Odd Parents and Jimmy Neutron, that are rated TV-Y ("appropriate for all children ... including children from ages 2-6"). And indeed, to get a sense of the intensity of these selling sprees, check out toymaker Hasbro's current Revenge of the Fallen webpage.
This is just a political move, with Transformers being used as an example of why a change in policy might be needed. Considering the huge amount of advertising revenue involved, the networks, movies studios, and more will happily throw some lobbyist dollars into making sure no changes are made that could affect their revenue and the selling their movies.


  1. I believe it isnt advertising it is the directors to blame for giving there film a rating such as PG-13 or others similar when there film contains rudeness,sexual refrences, drug refrences, violence and other bad things . . . I`m looking at you Harry Potter 6!

    But anyway TF also uses this method aswell and i really hope the next film is a strict 12 or 15 because i get so annoyed when a young little kid goes into the cinema and screams and cries when the film goes through its darker parts.

  2. Even I have to admit that there was a huge difference between TF1 2007 and TF2 2009 despite both having a PG-13 rating. I probably won't by the DVD because when my 8 yr starts walking around copying skids and mudflap, I won't have anyone to blame but myself. This is extremely unfortunate as I love sharing my childhood but then again my childhood did not have half naked girls and robots running around cussing and stuff.

  3. I agree about the ratings creep. I love The Dark Knight, but there is NO way that movie is PG-13. Transformers isn't quite as bad, in terms of content (robot violence isn't quite as bad as the graphic human-on-human violence in TDK) but I agree that it was marketed towards 7-13 year olds - hell, how could it not be? Hasbro makes toys based on the movie. Not only have ratings on movie content crept steadily downwards, but these days most people wouldn't think twice about taking a 10-year-old to a PG-13 movie. I remember when I was young, my parents would have to watch a PG-13 movie themselves before they'd decide if I could see it.

  4. (I realize my last post sounds kind of prudish. Disclaimer: I don't think viewing violence at a young age is bad for kids as long as it's in moderation and they're getting proper parenting to learn the difference between right and wrong. I've played violent video games pretty much since they've existed and I turned out okay!)

  5. When it comes down to it they really don't have much of a foothold on anything. If the advertisements themselves are not PG-13 in content then it shouldn't matter what it's promoting. Anonymous @ 11:04am hit the nail on the head. "when my 8 yr starts walking around copying skids and mudflap, I won't have anyone to blame but myself"

    It's the PARENTS responsibility as to whether their 13 and younger child watches the actual movie. Sure, the ads can prompt a child to want to see the movie, but it's the parents who should decide whether they do or not. I mean, lets get real, what's the difference between the child seeing the ad on tv and seeing a movie poster or billboard in a public place? It should be a studio's right to advertise as they please as long as the ad itself is age appropriate to the venue. If the commercials themselves were showing cussing robots and violence while being shown on a kids channel in the middle of the day, then that would be a different story.

    But I will agree that a PG-13 movie with inappropriate content for kids that is based on a toy-line meant for kids is a tough thing in itself.

  6. This is a difficult matter. I would say that The Dark Knight is the much more disturbing than HP6 or TF2. Sexual references and cussing, OK, we can deal with that. That's normal part of parent/child disciplinary process and thus shouldn't be such a big deal for rating status.

    But in the Dark Knight, placing a sharp knife into someone's mouth and speaking violent words and images is seriously NOT PG-13, NOT NORMAL. How can a kid even stand to watch something like that is beyond me, let alone want to emulate the character through costumes and such.

    It is an endless philosophical and psychological debate I'm sure.

  7. I'm not a big fan of censoring but I am an advocate for people being allowed to make an informed decision. Transformers 2 was not a rated R film but it was definitely inappropriately for viewers under 13. The rating was correct. However there was no way to prepare oneself for what that movie brought to the table other than the rating which can cover a wide range of content. The previews were completely devoid of the questionable content. While tastes and mores can change, consumers should be allowed to more have more access to information to make an informed decision.

  8. Everyone seems to be blaming directors for the ratings "scandal" when directors aren't the ones that rate movies.

    There's is a strict jury of adults that watches and rates films based on their content...the director may AIM for a slot (such as PG or PG-13) but they are ultimately NOT the ones that decide what the rating is, that is up to the committee.

  9. I would agree that it's 1--% the parents' responsibility to guard what their child sees. I mean, sure my 11 year old brother can see the trailers and get the toys and WANT to see the movie, but what was he going to do? Drive himSELF to the theater?

    Also, on people deserving to be able to make an informed decision, they can. Wherever the film's rating is posted, it also has a small 'flag' attached, stating the things that GOT it that rating. Transformers, for example, stated 'sequences of intense sci-fi action, violence, crude language, sexual humor' etc. I don't know about you, but I consider that ample information to make an informed decision as to whether or not that movie is appropriate for children.


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