June 15th, 2006

Congressman Wants Game Companies to Face FTC Fines

Could video game publishers face the same type of indecency fines to which radio and television broadcasters are already subject?

They will if Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) has his way. Upton expressed frustration with the Federal Trade Commission's Hot Coffee investigation during yesterday's meeting of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection, saying, "I guess I thought the FTC would have had some more teeth than they apparently have... I'm not at all happy with the consent decree... In essence there are no consequences. None... I would like to have thought that (Take-Two and Rockstar) would have been able to be fined for millions of dollars for the trash they put out across this country."

As Upton learned from a witness, however, the FTC has no such authority.

After the hearing, Upton told Broadcasting & Cable he is preparing legislation which would allow fines to be levied against video game publishers in much the same way that radio stations were made to pay for the on-air antics of shock jock Howard Stern and T.V. stations for the infamous Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction.

"I am going to be looking to write legislation giving the FTC the authority to impose civil penalties," Upton said. "I didn't know that they didn't have the authority. I have made a lot of phone calls - it's like the show Car 54, Where Are You?: FTC, where are you? - and I haven't heard that excuse until today."

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Listen as ESRB's Patricia Vance is Grilled by Congress

Need more on yesterday's contentious video game hearing before the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection?

GamePolitics has more!

If you enjoy a pointed cross-examination, check out this GP-created MP3 of ESRB boss Patricia Vance's testimony, Harvard researcher Kim Thompson's testimony, and Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Cliff Stearns' questioning of Vance (22 megs, 24 minutes).

ESRB president Patricia Vance's written testimony is available here.

FTC Commissioner Lydia Parnes' written testimony is here.

A NIMF press release on Dr. David Walsh's testimony is available here.

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Sparks Fly at Video Game Hearing on Capitol Hill

Yesterday's hearing before the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection was a contentious one, especially for the video game industry and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Among witnesses, ESRB president Patricia Vance came under the heaviest fire. It was clearly a day on which the assembled members of Congress opted to use the bully pulpit to drive home their collective frustrations with the video game industry.

Subcommittee Chairman Cliff Stearns (R-FL, seen at left) opened the hearing by paying homage to the creativity, fun and educational value of games. For the industry, it was all downhill from there. Stearns, like virtually all of his committee colleagues, was harshly critical of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Stearns also called on the FTC to make a full report to Congress on its recently-completed Hot Coffee investigation, a theme that was repeated by other subcommittee members during the hearing.

Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton (R-TX), who identified himself as a Civilization IV fan, chimed in on the FTC-bashing, calling the organization "tardy" in reporting to Congress. Barton added, "I am fed up with games like Grand Theft Auto being marketed under false pretenses."

Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) was also angry. "I guess I thought the FTC would have had some more teeth than they apparently have... I'm not at all happy with the consent decree... In essence there are no consequences. None... I would like to have thought that (Take-Two and Rockstar) would have been able to be fined for millions of dollars for the trash they put out across this country."
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