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A case of bad judgment


THEY SOUND like the tobacco peddlers, don't they?

Some Hollywood studio executives are actually justifying the way they market R-rated movies to kids as young as 9 because, in their opinion, some adult-rated movies may be of benefit to younger children.

Yeah, right. And Joe Camel wasn't a shameless attempt to boost child smoking.

These guys need to stop reading their marketing departments' science fiction and take a look at reality: People are tired of competitive zeal trumping common sense in the entertainment industry.

How about exercising a little self-restraint? Do you really need to advertise violent movies on children's cable channels?

Yes, the kids market fuels billions of dollars in sales for the entertainment industry. And children are an easy catch: A few explosions here and there, a little guts and blood, and they're hooked.

But continuing to exploit them the way the entertainment industry does is no better than what the cigarette industry did for years. Tobacco's poison for the lungs; violent, trashy movies are poison for the brain.

Unfortunately, it's not just the entertainment industry that has got the wrong idea. Congress -- led by puritans who'd love to set all the rules on the airwaves -- is thinking of imposing limits on entertainment industry marketing. Where those regulations would stop, no one knows. But it's clearly a bad idea.

This is an issue of poor judgment and bad taste -- not a matter for legal interference. The First Amendment -- and our traditions of unregulated commercial speech in this country -- says so.

Studio executives know what effect they're having on kids by marketing adult-appropriate material to them. They just need to act on what they know, instead of lunging shamelessly for the almighty dollar.

If the industry refuses to restrain itself, it's consumers, not government, who should turn up the heat. After all, parents are still the real purchase power behind children's entertainment.

This is a debate over the fear of lost profits, and there's no better rebuttal for an out-of-control consumer culture than to just quit buying into it.

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