We’ve all heard about Nipplegate, the occasional F-bomb at the Grammys, and the gigantic fines from the FCC that typically follow these events, typically driven by the Parents Television Council, whose automated bitch line is responsible for about 99.8% of a quarter million complaints, which when investigated came from only 1500 individuals.
Founded by the son of Joseph McCarthy’s speechwriter, L. Brent Bozell, the organization is alleged to be more of a tool for raising funds for conservative politicians by stoking manufactured outrage than an actual tool for change.
The New York Times investigated Parents Television Council back in 2010 and came away with the following:
Like many nonprofit groups, the council raises money by mail: sign and return this petition — preferably with a donation — and we will send it to the F.C.C. But internal documents show that, at least for a period of some months, the council was opening tens of thousands of envelopes, looking for money, and skipping the rest of the steps.
In a March 2009 e-mail to [Timothy F. Winter, the council’s president], Patrick W. Salazar, who was the council’s vice president for development but is now one of its critics and has been accused by the group of trying to extort money from it, wrote, “Almost 195,000 pieces of donor/member mail was never sent to the intended recipient.”
So with the biggest threat to more racy programming more neutered by the day, and since basic cable programming — which must follow none of the FCC rules — draws 2/3 of American viewers, it’s obvious that, aside from a few busybodies, no one cares that much about the occasional f-bomb or nipslip.
And apparently the networks agree. Via Deadline:
When they talk to Wall Street, broadcast moguls love to boast about their financial power and unparalleled ability to reach mass audiences. But the FCC heard a different story this week from networks as they challenged the agency’s efforts to minimize indecent programming. Companies say that the rules are too vague, that they clash with broadcasters’ First Amendment rights, and that parents can control what their kids watch. But ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC also say that rules are archaic because the networks have lost so much cultural clout. Fox says in an FCC filing, “Americans today, including children, spend more time engaged with non-broadcast channels delivered by cable and satellite television, the Internet, video games and other media than they do with broadcast media.” In a separate filing, NBCUniversal observes that ”Broadcast TV is not a uniquely pervasive presence in the lives of 21st Century Americans.”
Granted, it’s interesting to see the broadcasters essentially saying, “We don’t need to abide by the rules anymore everybody’s watching the cable networks instead!” But still, they sort of have a point. In today’s world, what’s the actual difference — practically speaking — between cable networks and the broadcast networks? Nothing, really, when it comes to the way most people receive TV.
My recommendation? Follow the basic-cable self-imposed rules (with limits on naughtiness before 10pm), which has seemed to be a rare case of self-regulation working, and have the FCC bring anyone who complains to don the Clockwork Orange glasses for a marathon of Pulp Fiction and The Big Lebowski on a loop. That’ll solve the problem right there.