Record warning labels under fire in Senate
Web posted on: Wednesday, June 17, 1998 4:44:26 PM
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Senate Commerce Committee met on Tuesday with music industry officials and critics to discuss concerns over whether the warning labels on records and compact discs actually protect children from offensive lyrics.
The labeling system, intended to provide some guidance to parents in monitoring their children's music purchases, has been in use for 10 years now. But Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), who headed the hearing, said the labels -- warning that recordings contain obscene, racist, misogynistic or violent lyrics -- actually attract children.
"Even while industry executives assert that children are protected from this music, anecdotal evidence suggests that most hyper-violent albums are bought by children," Brownback said in his opening statement. "There don't seem to be many Marilyn Manson fans over the age of 20."
'It's a shame'
Brownback's position was supported in statements from Entertainment Monitor editor-in-chief Charlie Gilreath, who lambasted music industry executives for exploiting musicians, particularly rap music artists.
"They are being exploited and it is a shame," said Gilreath, who said the recording industry's current labeling system has become a marketing device. "A child looking for hardcore rap records is not going to buy one that does not have (an advisory label) on it," said Gilreath.
The hearing -- composed mostly of critics of the labeling system -- was informational only, and Brownback says he has no intention of of introducing a bill in the near future.
Connection to tragedy
Debbie Pelley, a teacher at the Jonesboro, Arkansas, middle school where five people were killed and 11 injured in a shooting rampage, said the tragedy -- blamed on two students at the school -- was partly the fault of lyrics by slain rapper Tupac Shakur and Bone Thugs & Harmony. Pelley said one of the accused had become a huge fan of the acts prior to the shootings.
"He brought (this music) to school with him, listened to it on the bus, tried listening to it in the classes -- even my class -- sang the lyrics over and over at school, and played a cassette in the bathroom about coming to school and killing all the kids," Pelley said.
One of the few to speak in support of the industry was former Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic, president the Joint Artist & Music Promotions Political Action Committee (JAMPAC).
"We have to move beyond the grainy black-and-white approach of blaming lyrics," Novoselic said. "We need to move forward and apply full-spectrum, high-definition solutions to the challenges facing our nation."
Responding to the claim in an earlier hearing that song lyrics from bands like Marilyn Manson can lead to suicide, Novoselic said, "There are millions of children or young people in the United States who hear those same lyrics and aren't compelled to kill themselves."
Recording Industry Association of America president Hilary Rosen declined an invitation to attend the hearing, saying it was clear that Brownback was primarily interested in beating the culture war drum to "target" and "scapegoat" the music industry.
Also speaking at the press conference was Rock the Vote's new president, Seth Matlins.
"It is not the job or responsibility ... of public officials to dictate what music is good or bad, appropriate or inappropriate and what is ultimately worthy of being produced," Matlins said.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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