Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 500-503)


29 APRIL 2008

  Q500  Chairman: As the father of a teenage son I am acutely aware of the immense desire on the part of teenage boys to be able to buy Grand Theft Auto and games of that kind. I anticipate that there will be a considerable demand once this particular game reaches the shelves. I am slightly concerned that the industry is promoting it so hard and creating exactly the problem Mr Kingsley described, namely that teenagers will say that they have to have the game and will put pressure on parents to buy it.

  Mr Kingsley: But is that not the same with virtually anything that grown-ups want to stop kids of a certain age groups from doing? We have laws in place to try to stop that.

  Q501  Chairman: I cannot think of any other example where millions of pounds are spent on promoting something that they are not allowed to do?

  Mr Kingsley: It is not promoted to them but at the legitimate market. I suppose you could talk about advertising spread and say it is going to a different audience. If you are doing an outdoor poster you cannot determine who will look at it or not. The reality is that we ought to be celebrating something that is probably the world's biggest launch of intellectual property and is British made. I think that is fantastic and it should be celebrated. The fact there is an audience there which would like to buy it but really should not is something for society to consider.

  Mr Ramsdale: I remember as a 12 year-old in the seventies not being able to wait to watch the video nasties, and I would guess we have all been there. Alcohol is another example. Alcohol does very compelling, clever advertising that people under 18 will see. I think the same rules apply. Fundamentally, the ASA needs to tell us what is and what is not acceptable and we need to be compliant, and I would say that so far we have been.

  Mr Kingsley: After all, they are the experts on the whole of advertising.

  Q502  Chairman: You will be aware that there are very strict rules controlling the advertising of alcohol and there is pressure here to tighten them. Do you think there may be a case for restrictions on the advertising of video games?

  Mr Ramsdale: If you are deliberately targeting an inappropriate game to an age demographic and you know where those people are spending their time you should not be allowed to do it. If you are being sensible about targeting the audience I would argue: why?

  Mr Jackson: We would say that we are an important part of media entertainment. All along we have been saying that legally we should not be treated separately from film or any other industry because that is the area we are in. We do not believe that video games should be specifically targeted because we have tried so hard for so long to get everything right.

  Dr Wilson: Chairman, you are absolutely right that when advertising takes place and the product has an 18 age rating that fact should be made quite clear. If nothing else, that helps not only the buyer, the parent, to have the appropriate information but also the people in the shops.

  Q503  Chairman: For instance, in cinemas Grand Theft Auto should be advertised only in films that are rated at 18?

  Mr Ramsdale: Yes; there are strict codes on that.

  Mr Jackson: The point is that the ASA codes should apply to all advertising and should be rigorously enforced and by and large they are.

  Chairman: That is all we have for you. I thank all of you very much.

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