Over at Ars Technica, Matt Lasar does a nice job pointing out how the FCC's quarterly indecency complaint totals have again been inflated by one group: the Parents Television Council. This is something Lasar has written about before and he's one of the few journalists who continues to ask sharp questions about the ongoing manipulation of these statistics by PTC. As Lasar notes in his latest piece:
for the first quarter of this year, show the viewers relatively calm at 578 complaints in January, then 505 in February, followed by 179,997 in March? 179,997? Um, did we miss something? Did television really get that much more indecent in March? No worries. In these situations, we know what to do. We go over and check out the Parents Television Council's website. And sure enough, there's a plausible instigator--a PTC viewer action alert crusade against a March 8 episode of the animated comedy show the PTC just loves to hate, Fox TV's Family Guy.
What's even more troubling about the way the FCC changed it complaint counting process to make the PTC happy is that the agency failed to provide the public official notice of these changes outside of some limited and quite confusing fine print in the footnotes of quarterly reports. Look as hard as you want at the FCC website and you will not find any press releases or summaries of these changes during that period. And there does not appear to be any mention of these changes in any speeches by FCC Commissioners or bureau chiefs then or since. More shockingly, as far as I can tell, the FCC only made these methodological changes for indecency complaints, not for any other category of complaints that the agency receives! Finally, and probably worst of all, these bogus numbers were then used by FCC officials and congressional lawmakers as supporting evidence for the supposed public outcry for more regulation of television and radio.
It's an outrage, especially when you realize that the programs that the PTC wants censored are among the most popular on television, as I thoroughly documented in my paper. In other words, they don't speak for most of us when it comes to what we want to watch or listen to. I hope the new FCC understands these bogus indecency complaint numbers do not reflect the wishes of most consumers. Finally, those in the PTC or elsewhere who are offended by "The Family Guy" or other shows on television have plenty of tools and methods at their disposal to make sure those programs are not seen in their homes. Please don't try to impose your will on the rest of us when you have the tools at your disposal to do this job for you and your family. Let's not make Uncle Sam our National Nanny.