Isn’t it interesting: we hear that the FCC got 240,000 complaints in 2003, and everyone jumps to the conclusion that television is suddenly pornographic. No one thinks to ask questions such as, well, “How many people are watching television?” “Who is making these complaints?”
The answer to the first question isn’t too hard to figure out; since one major television show can attract something like 5 million viewers — and that’s just one hour out of 6,360 hours in a year — the percentage of actual complaints is so miniscule as to be statistically zero. Even if the 240,000 complaints were about ONE hour of programming, it would still be a statistical null.
So, what’s the problem? Millions upon millions of people watching television, and 240,000 complain (rather than watch something else, of course). But that’s not the end of the story. Read this:
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.
So, the actual number of complaints was far smaller when you subtract the 99.8% that came from automated complaint generators on the PTC website.
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.
Statistically speaking, every complaint to the FCC is coming from the PTC. They’re spamming the FCC, and the commission is rolling over and letting them impose their draconian “moral” views on the rest of the nation.
Meanwhile, Jeff Jarvis unloads on Brent Bozell, the “self-appointed head of the self-created Parents Television Council — the proof that you can print a letterhead and end up as a spokesman for anything on cable news — and the guy who wants to singlehandedly censor all media in America to his lowest denominator.”
I am a parent and you do not speak for me.
I am a Christian and you do not speak for me. Let me really scare you and tell you that I not only got to church every Sunday, I sing in the choir, I serve as a head of the church’s organizing body, I preach sermons, I teach Sunday school. But I also like Howard Stern and Desperate Housewives. Pardon me while I dodge the lightning bolts.
And I am an American but you do not speak for me. This is a nation built on free speech and a belief in tolerance and the value of the marketplace of ideas and the blessing of diversity. You are against all that. You try to stop the rest of us from watching what you think we should not watch. You disdain and condemn your fellow Americans and our culture because it does not match your idea of what it should be. That, sir, seems distinctly unAmerican to me.
You think you have some God-given right to tell us what we should and should not do. You do not.
But you know what? I think you should be able to watch whatever you want to watch, even if it is the 700 Club with its hate and homophobia. I would not presume to try to get it taken off the air for hate speech. I simply turn the channel. You should do the same.