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BMG to Put Ratings on CDs

Major label the first to heed Senate’s request for new labels

The Bertelsmann Music Group, one of the five major record
companies, has decided to expand upon the Recording Industry
Association of America’s pre-existing Parental Advisory Program
with a broader initiative designed to inform parents about music
that might be deemed objectionable.

BMG’s new policy requires that any BMG release in the United
States that warrants the Parental Advisory Label (which was created
in 1985 as a result of the campaigning of Tipper Gore, wife of
then-Senator Al Gore) to be packaged with an additional label that
describes the nature of the explicit content to one of three more
specific degrees: Strong Language, Violent Content, Sexual Content.
Some releases may require two or three of the labels, which will be
presented on the bottom right corner of the album, beneath the PAL.
The first of the new labels will be used on May Day by
rapper Lady May, due in late July.

“BMG recognizes our dual responsibility to help parents make
informed decisions about the entertainment their children consume
and to protect the right of our artists to express themselves
freely,” said Rolf Schmidt-Holtz, Chairman and CEO of BMG. “Our
labeling initiative will offer parents additional tools to help
them decide what is appropriate for them and their families,
keeping in mind the rich diversity in our communities.”

The decision was announced on June 3rd, in anticipation of a
Federal Trade Commission report about the marketing of explicit
material to children. The issue was initiated by President Bill
Clinton in 1999 following the Columbine High School tragedy in
Colorado. In late 2000, the FTC issued Marketing Violent
Entertainment to Children: A Review of Self-Regulation and Industry
Practices in the Motion Picture, Music Recording and Electronic
Game Industries
. The report criticized the three industries
for deliberately marketing violent and profane material towards
children.

In April 2001, a follow-up report was issued praising steps
taken by the film and gaming industries at self-regulation, but the
music industry was singled out for coming up short in protecting
children from objectionable marketing practices. According to the
second report, all five major labels advertised albums that
contained explicit material in television and print ads with
substantial demographics under the age of seventeen. The study also
claimed that most print, television and Web advertisements failed
to display the Parental Advisory label. The Senate Commerce
Committee, chaired by Senator John McCain, chose not to take any
regulatory measures, but instead to wait for a more extensive
report.

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