Conflict of Interest? NIMF Responds to GP Queries on ESA Grant

Buried deep in last week’s ESA press release which detailed a million bucks worth of grants to non-profits was word that the National Institute on Media and the Family was to be one of nine funding recipients.

NIMF is an interesting selection for the ESA, to say the least. Over the years the group has been a highly vocal, politically well-connected, and rational (in contrast to certain other critics) thorn in the side of the video game industry.

As recently as November, 2005, for example, NIMF head David Walsh, flanked by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), gave the ESRB an "F" on its Annual Video Game Report Card. In its 2007 report card, NIMF charged the game industry with "an ominous backslide on multiple fronts." Walsh has also worked with Hillary Clinton and other members of Congress on video game sex and violence issues.

Given NIMF’s history as self-appointed media watchdog, it’s more than a little surprising to see the group accept funding from the video game industry. Doing so raises obvious conflict of interest questions and GamePolitics put those issues to NIMF. Late yesterday, spokesman Darin Broton responded on behalf of the organization:

For 12 years, the Institute has been a leader in helping families maximize the benefit and minimize the harm of media. To continue our success in helping parents navigate the constantly changing technology, the Institute will work with organizations that support its mission to give parents the tools to make them even more successful. Reasonable organizations can disagree on principle, but can work together for the betterment of families and children. 


This isn’t the first time the Institute has worked with an organization it has been at odds with in the past. As you may recall, we worked together with the ESRB earlier this year during the release of GTA IV. The two organizations issued a joint statement telling parents to beware and follow the ESRB’s rating on the box. Where there are areas of agreement, the Institute will work with reasonable organizations to help parents and families. If the Institute has concerns with a particular issue within the gaming industry, we will respond appropriately. Nothing has changed.

Broton also told GP that the amount of the ESA grant is $50,000, but did not respond to our question as to whether NIMF approached the ESA regarding funding or vice-versa. According to the ESA press release the grant will be used to "develop an on-line e-learning zone for using the latest interactive technologies to help kids and adults understand the issues and potential areas of concern with the Internet."

GP: Broton is correct to point out that NIMF worked with ESRB on the GTA IV advisory. However, there’s a wide gap between "working with" and "accepting money from." Whether one agrees or disagrees with NIMF and its mission, taking funding from the industry it purports to be watching is a credibility-damaging decision on the organization’s part.

What were they thinking?

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  1. 0
    Father Time says:

    They do have parental controls on consoles, they have them this gen and I’m pretty sure they had them last gen.


    God created alcohol so that the Scottish and the Irish could never take over the world. -Chris ‘Jedi’ Knight

  2. 0
    Shoehorn Oplenty says:

    "develop an on-line e-learning zone for using the latest interactive technologies to help kids and adults understand the issues and potential areas of concern with the Internet."

    If this is what the money is to be used for, then I don’t see it as a conflict of interest. The "areas of concern" to an extent dovetail with areas and topics that effect video games. For example, there are sites and services on the internet that are for adults only. Same with games. People should be responsible with their personal details on the internet, same as within games online (remember the xbox live nude pics for points and the DS pedophile tool reports?).

    Anything that helps kids and especially parents become more knowledgeable about how to be more responsible with technology can only help the video game industry. I would prefer however, if they included things like parental controls on the consoles and the ESRB ratings in this program to ensure that parents have this knowledge, but anything that raises parental awareness and responsibility is a good thing.

  3. 0
    Orange Soda says:

    Who was is that promised to out organizations/politicians/whoever that accepted donations from the video game industry? Was that NIMF or someone else? Or am I remembering something that never happened?

  4. 0
    Pixelantes Anonymous says:

    Conquer and divide comes to mind as well.

    A really weird move by NIMF. Jackhole has been on David Walsh’es case for the imaginary BestBuy funding, and now they take money from the very industry they’re trying to influence with their campaign. Critics of NIMF are going to have a field day with this one.

  5. 0
    Vake Xeacons says:

    Actually, “working with” is a lot more damaging to credibility than “accepting money.”

    Let’s all calm down now people. The NIMF has been a lot more logical and less persecuting than anyone else. This isn’t Liberman; this isn’t Clinton, and it sure as hell isn’t Thompson.

    The only problem I’ve had with the NIMF is their attacks towards the ESRB, claiming the ESRB isn’t doing it’s job. We’ve got 2 players, on the same team, fighting for the same goal, but the NIMF was attacking their own quarterback for the opportunity to make that winning touchdown for their own personal glory, rather than thinking about what’s best for the team.

    If they want to be on our side, let’em.

  6. 0
    Neeneko says:

    While I can see where this can be a potential ‘conflict of interest’, I could also see how this could be a step twoards both groups being on the same side.  While NIMF and ESA have locked horns in the past there is no fundemental reason for them to be fighting eachother.

    I could easily see a bit of middleground being found.  If the ESA puts work in to addressing NIMF concerns, that reduces the need of NIMF to go to people like Lieberman and Clinton to pull weight for them.  At that point the NIMF can reduce it’s hostility and help the ESA keep things going too.   In other words, much of the conflict between them exists simply to manage the conflict.. the actual goals are not incompatible.

  7. 0
    DeepThorn says:

    So the ESA sold us out?  Doing business with any company with any connections other than negitive ones with Joe Lieberman, Hillary Clinton, and other worthless like minded politicians is not good for the industry.  What is this for?  More DRM laws that let publishers put the software in the games?  This would be like ECA having Jack Thompson or a group that represents Jack Thompson represent them legally isn’t it?

    I like this whole situation as much as I like hearing Bush assure us that everything is going to be okay, or Palin even being close to the VP seat.

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