January 11, 2005

FCC - 2004 In Review

Last year I wrote a major rant on the FCC (posted on 11 November). Since we're coming up on the Superbowl, and we all remember what happened last year, I thought I'd post some new information on this topic.

According to Time magazine (an issue from late last year, alas I don't remember which one), 1.1 million complaints were filed with the FCC in 2004. Almost half of those, 540,000 to be exact, concerned Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction".

Wow, that's a lot of pissed off people, right? Maybe not...

According to this MediaWeek article, prior to 2003 the annual number of complaints received by the FCC was under 15,000. In 2003 the FCC received 240,000, 99.9% of those were filed by one source, the Parents Television Council. And in 2004, 99.9% of those not related to the Superbowl were from the same source (this last fact is also in the Time article).

What this means, according to the president of the Center for Creative Voices in Media, is that "Really a tiny minority with a very focused political agenda is trying to censor American television and radio."

In one example, Fox Broadcasting was fined $1.2 million when the FCC received 159 complaints against Married By America, which showed strippers covered up by digital pixilation. But when Fox confronted the FCC, the federal agency could only produce 90 complaints filed by 23 different people. Worse yet, all but 4 of the complaints are identical and only 1 individual claims to have watched the show.

Should 23 people and a photocopier decide "community standards" for a show watched by 5.1 million viewers? Should these same 23 people decide censorship issues for every TV viewer and radio listener in the entire country?

They're certainly trying...and the FCC is listening.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am sure Media Week has an agenda of its own. It's by the media for the media. Given the liberal bent of the media, I would be equally cautious about putting too much stock in it. Each side will have a bias. The only way to come to a decision, is to see the actual documents.

If it is true, then perhaps the rest of us should pay more attention as it seems to me that based on this...only 23 seem to care aobut what's on TV.

3:08 PM  
Blogger Rothar said...

I'm sure Media Week does have an agenda, as does every news agency (or organization, for that matter). As far as being Liberal, while I don't know Media Week well enough to judge, there are Conservative media agencies. These aren't as rare as one might think, The Trentonian comes to mind, as does anything produced by FOX.

While reading the actual documents is one avenue of finding the truth, another would be to view the actual media the complaint was filed about. Granted, while I haven't seen it with my own eyes (not being a TV watcher or even having cable - then again, neither did those who complained!), I read that the most graphic parts of the show dealt with men licking whipped cream off of a stripper's body and a man in underwear being spanked.

Now while this sounds like a pretty wild night, keep in mind that this was a prepared broadcast for television - we're not talking a live "wardrobe malfunction" here, this was a taped program where any indecent nudity (breasts, ass and such) would be digitally blocked out. So the complaints here aren't about nudity at all, they're about content...specifically, licking whipped cream off a female body and a man getting spanked.

For whatever reason, the Parents Television Council (PTC) has taken it upon themselves to flood the FCC with complaints based on content they find offensive. They definitely have an agenda, I think it's safe to say that they'd like to see the clock turned back all the way to the Victorian Age. Just look at some of the recent media incidents:

NFL commercial where a woman's nude back was seen (not her ass mind you, just her back).

FOX edited an old episode of Family Guy, to remove the butt of one of the characters (despite the fact that there has never been a complaint).

Finally, keep in mind that there is no avenue of complaint for people like me. I'm not offended by the NFL commercial, strippers wearing whipped cream, or a cartoon ass. Now I wasn't offended by the Janet Jackson breast thing, but agree that it shouldn't be on regular TV. If this had been broadcast on cable (say on Showtime), then there would have been no uproar whatsoever - but this type of nudity is what you expect to see on Showtime and it is permitted by law. But who can I complain to?

There's no way I can counter the PTC, they have the power to complain about the media to a federal agency that controls content. The FCC does not have a customer complaint section where I can accuse them of being too stringent. So if 25 members of the PTC flood the FCC with 200 complaints about one episode of NYPD Blue, that's all the FCC ever sees. 200 complaints were received, it must be indecent, action must be taken. If I got 200 people to write the FCC, our Congressmen or Senators, we could not generate a similar reaction.

9:04 AM  
Blogger Rothar said...

One final quick note, I just read a news article that mentioned two things:

1) FCC chairman Michael Powell steps down in March

2) The FCC has recently rejected a number of compltaints by the PTC.

Maybe the FCC has finally heard its critics.

11:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You want something that will make your skin crawl...how about this one.



10:40 AM  

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