Most FCC Indecency Complaints From One Organization

Jeff Berg
WASHINGTON — New statistics were revealed Monday that show approximately 99.8 percent of the 240,000 indecency complaints filed with the Federal Communications Commission in 2003 were filed by one activist group, according to FCC documents released under the Freedom of Information Act.

The documents also indicated that roughly 99.9 percent of indecency complaints received this year, except those regarding Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” during the Super Bowl halftime show, were also filed by The Parents Television Council.

So far, the FCC estimates that it has received 1,068,767 complaints this year, about 540,000 of which were due to the Super Bowl show.

The Parents Television Council, which offers an automated form to file FCC complaints on its website, states that its primary mission is to “promote and restore responsibility and decency to the entertainment industry in answer to America’s demand for positive, family-oriented television programming.”

The new statistics call into question FCC Chairman Michael Powell’s testimony before Congress in February, during which he revealed that the amount of indecency complaints filed in 2003 was roughly 1,700 percent greater than in 2002.

Powell told Congress that the rise from 14,000 complaints in 2002 to 240,000 in 2003, was due to, “a dramatic rise in public concern and outrage about what is being broadcast into their homes.”

That dramatic increase that Powell points out coincides almost perfectly with what the PTC calls “a massive, coordinated, and determined campaign” that it undertook in 2003 to get the FCC to act on indecency. That resulted in “a more than 2,400 percent increase in online activism,” according to group’s annual report.

Fox Broadcasting Co., in its opposition to the nearly $1.2 million in FCC fines levied against them for the depiction of bachelor and bachelorette parties during an episode of reality television show “Married by America,” also noted the disproportionally high amount of complaints that come from a single source.

In the FCC notice filed against Fox, the regulatory agency said that it had received 159 complaints about the program in question, but a FOIA request revealed that only 90 complaints had been received and that those 90 complaints had been filed by 23 different people.

Also noted in the FOIA response was that, of those 90 complaints, all but four were identical because most were generated by a website, and that only one of the complainants said they had watched the program.