Wednesday, December 08, 2004

How to Complain to the FCC

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is the Bush administration's vice-police on the public airways. We all read about its actions when Janet Jackson's breast was bared. And the FCC is where concerned people sent their complaints when interracial sex was implied in an ad for Monday Night Football. I happen to believe that the FCC should be more interested in guaranteeing our political freedoms than our freedoms from naked flesh, but many others believe that it's not doing enough to make America more chaste.

Or so it seemed:

In an appearance before Congress in February, when the controversy over Janet Jackson's Super Bowl moment was at its height, Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael Powell laid some startling statistics on U.S. senators.

The number of indecency complaints had soared dramatically to more than 240,000 in the previous year, Powell said. The figure was up from roughly 14,000 in 2002, and from fewer than 350 in each of the two previous years. There was, Powell said, "a dramatic rise in public concern and outrage about what is being broadcast into their homes."

What Powell did not reveal—apparently because he was unaware—was the source of the complaints. According to a new FCC estimate obtained by Mediaweek, nearly all indecency complaints in 2003—99.8 percent—were filed by the Parents Television Council, an activist group.

This year, the trend has continued, and perhaps intensified.

Through early October, 99.9 percent of indecency complaints—aside from those concerning the Janet Jackson "wardrobe malfunction" during the Super Bowl halftime show broadcast on CBS— were brought by the PTC, according to the FCC analysis dated Oct. 1. (The agency last week estimated it had received 1,068,767 complaints about broadcast indecency so far this year; the Super Bowl broadcast accounted for over 540,000, according to commissioners' statements.)

Busy bees, these Parents Television Council people. Similar findings of very few original complaints applied also to the decision to fine Fox Broadcasting for indecency shown in its program called "Married by America". It turns out that only twenty-three individuals complained, but they did it repeatedly. Whether these individuals were from PTC is unclear, though.

All this makes me wonder how many wingnuts there really are. Maybe they amount to something like twenty-four individuals, most typing away in their mothers' basements?