Pittsburgh's WTAE-TV consumer watch reporter Wendy Bell is the latest television news hound to go after anime.  In a report broadcast on Tuesday, Feb. 13th, Bell found, 'It's easy for kids to get their hands on anime with sexual content, nudity, and adult language.'  To prove her point she gave a 12-year-old boy $40 and sent him into a store.  He returned with a tape that carried the warning, 'Contains violence, strong language, and nudity.'


Just as in a similar incident in Cleveland (See, 'Ouch! Another Retailer Stung'), the reporters at Channel 4 were not trying to get a store busted or a clerk fired, rather they were trying to inform the public that all cartoons are not kid's stuff and that parents should pay attention to what their kids are watching.  Both of these concepts are indeed laudable; in particular the public needs to be informed that there are many different types of anime aimed at very different target audiences.


Unfortunately, Ms. Bell was not as even-handed as her counterparts in Cleveland. She made several misstatements and may have confused viewers by talking about 'unrated cartoons.'  Since few anime are ever released theatrically, they aren't rated by the MPAA, and can't use the standard 'G,' 'PG,' 'R,' 'X' ratings, which are for theatrical movies only and are trademarked by the MPAA.  However anime packagers in the U.S. are quite good about indicating which titles are for adults only, and which titles contain nudity and heavy amounts of violence.  Ms. Bell also came up with the somewhat less than astute observation that, '...what makes anime distinctive are [sic] the big eyes on the characters.' And she let the director of the Pittsburgh Coalition Against Pornography assert that, '...there have been tons of studies that show that kids or even adults are influenced by what they see and do and watch' without challenge.


Nevertheless the message from what must be described as the latest incident in a growing series of 'stings' (the first was in Los Angeles engineered by television reporters sending underage kids to buy pop culture products is clear.  Retailers have to increase their vigilance regarding adult or mature material not only because it's the right thing to do, but because this kind of 'sting' operation is a distinct possibility.  Many television stations are connected by common ownership and routinely pass story ideas from station to station, and TV news directors often surf the web sites of stations in different markets looking for story ideas.  Don't become an unwitting participant in the next tv sting!