December 8, 2012

Stanton A. Glantz, PhD

What Sony's policy would look like if it was serious about getting smoking out of its youth-rated films

Several people asked me what Sony could do to revise its policy on smoking in movies to actually impact the levels of smoking in its youth-rated films.  Here it is, with additions in italics and deletions in strikeout.

  • Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) is committed to reducing depictions of tobacco use in the films produced or distributed by the companyor any wholly-owned film division.
  • SPE has adopted a standard protocol to identify, and where appropriate and feasible, eliminate portrayals of tobacco use in its youth-rated films.\
  • In particular, there will be a working presumption that youth-rated films produced and distributed in the United States shall not feature depictions of tobacco use unless it portrays tobacco use by an actual historical figure who actually smoked or when the portrayal clearly and unambiguously portrays the dangers of tobacco use there is a compelling creative justification that may include, but is not limited to, factors such as historical accuracy or an important tie to the creative context of the project and vision of the filmmaker.
  • SPE will continue its existing policy of not entering into product placement arrangements in connection with the depiction of tobacco products and expand this policy to ensure that no one connected with the making of any film produced or distributed by SPE received anything of value in exchange for the portrayal of tobacco use or promotions. As part of the commitment to this long-standing ban, SPE will, on a going forward basis, indicate in the end credits of films with tobacco depictions that “No person or entity associated with this film received payment or anything of value, or entered into any agreement, in connection with the depiction of tobacco products.” product placement arrangement was made.
  • These policies will also apply with regard to film acquisitions, co-productions, and films produced and distributed outside of the United States, Sony Pictures Entertainment may have limited influence over the content. In these instances, SPE will discourage depictions of tobacco use where reasonable and practical.
  • And finally, Sony Pictures Entertainment will use its position on the MPAA Board of Directors to strongly support an R-rating for films with smoking or other tobacco use (with the two exceptions noted above)the continued use of a smoking descriptor in a youth-rated film's MPAA rating so that consumers can make an informed choice when deciding whether a film is appropriate.

These are also the kind of changes that other media companies should make.  (The certification of no payoffs is what Time-Warner is already using and the way Sony and the other studios should be doing it.

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