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Eyestrain: Blame these loons:

Monday, December 13, 2004

Blame these loons:

In case you thought it was a loose group of whackos independently writing letters of complaint to the FCC on such sundry topics as Janet Jackson's nipple peep show, or those lewd Olympics, think again.

It's the same bunch of thumper freaks doing it EVERY GODDAMN TIME. Check this out from my local T.V. columnist (It's a good column, you should read the whole thing, but here's the meat):

"My vote for best media/television story of the year goes to one you may have missed. Mediaweek reported on Dec. 6 that of all the "indecency complaints" to the Federal Communications Commission in 2003, a startling 99.8 percent of them came from one conservative group, the Parents Television Council.

And through October of this year, apart from complaints over Janet Jackson's infamous "wardrobe malfunction," a full 99.9 percent of the complaints about indecency have again come from the Parents Television Council. That means a small group of highly mobilized conservative watchdogs has essentially driven the "moral values" campaign directed at the FCC.

Hey, blue staters, this is a much smaller picture than you ever imagined. Forget about looking at that depressing election map and feeling overwhelmed, like you're on a cultural island apart from the rest of the country. The sad fact is, while you've been pouting -- and prior to that, when you were watching Jon Stewart and gloating -- you let a small group of reactionary conservatives set the agenda.

In short, you've fallen asleep at your Mac, friends. In the land of the tech savvy, you've been e-mailing among yourselves instead of sending off missives to FCC Chairman Michael Powell. You've missed a chance to say, "Hey Mike, I'm an adult who knows how to work my television's remote control. I may not like everything I see, but I want you to know that I am disinterested in creating some McCarthyesque chill factor in the creative community. Yours sincerely."

What's the use of all that wireless capacity, that lust for cool tech, if you're going to surf EBay instead of, say, dictate the national debate on indecency?..."

"...If 2004 was the year the Culture War became a scene out of "The Lord of the Rings," we now know that scare tactics and chest-pounding about moral values came from the finger-clicking of a relative few and found their way up through the FCC and out of the mouth of President Bush. Just remember, you might feel like you're in Helms Deep right now, but when you look out at the vanquishing horde of conservative watchdog goons, it's really just a CGI illusion.

Which means there's hope in beating back the censorship rampage of a very tiny minority.

The Mediaweek story said that the number of complaints to the FCC in 2003 totaled 240,000, which was up from a mere 14,000 in 2002. People complaining to the FCC in both 2001 and 2000 numbered about 350 in each year. So, let's see, that's roughly the amount of people in three BART train cars on your morning commute."

I keep telling people it's a tiny group of people doing this crap. Here are excerpts from the Mediaweek story:

Activists Dominate Content Complaints
December 06, 2004
By Todd Shields

"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.)

The prominent role played by the PTC has raised concerns among critics of the FCC’s crackdown on indecency. “It means that really a tiny minority with a very focused political agenda is trying to censor American television and radio,” said Jonathan Rintels, president and executive director of the Center for Creative Voices in Media, an artists’ advocacy group.

PTC officials disagree.

“I wish we had that much power,” said Lara Mahaney, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles-based group. Mahaney said the issue should not be the source of complaints, but whether programming violates federal law prohibiting the broadcast of indecent matter when children are likely to be watching. “Why does it matter how the complaints come?” Mahaney said. “If the networks haven’t done anything illegal, if they haven’t done anything indecent, why do they care what we say?”

And what does Chairman Powell have to say about this (again, from the Mediaweek piece):

“Advocacy groups do generate many complaints, as our critics note, but that’s not unusual in today’s Internet world…that fact does not minimize the merits of the groups’ concerns,” Powell wrote.

Riiiiiiight. I'm sure you'd pay equal attention to complaints from a non-conservative, non-GOP fellating group that wouldn't help your nepotistically supercharged career, Chairman. Mmm-hmmm.

And even Fox is pissed. Check it out:

even the number of complaints becomes an object of contention. For example, the agency on Oct. 12, in proposing fines of nearly $1.2 million against Fox Broadcasting and its affiliates, said it received 159 complaints against Married by America, which featured strippers partly obscured by pixilation.

But when asked, the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau said it could find only 90 complaints from 23 individuals. (The smaller total was first reported by Internet-based TV writer Jeff Jarvis; Mediaweek independently obtained the Enforcement Bureau’s calculation.)

And Fox, in a filing last Friday, told the FCC that it should rescind the proposed fines, in part because the low number of complaints fell far short of indicating that community standards had been violated.

“All but four of the complaints were identical…and only one complainant professed even to have watched the program,” Fox said.

UPDATE: Well, hell. I didn't realize these were the same nutcases from last weekend's giggles over at the ole' Eschaton, but nevertheless, it's good to keep pounding at and exposing the wingnut apparatus. It's such a tiny thing, really; like my first dog, a cockerpoo-type that barked deep and low like a really big dog. Once you saw him, it became a joke.