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December 07, 2004

Why Oh Why Are We Ruled by These Fools? (The Apple Doesn't Fall Far From the Tree Department)

Kevin Drum tells us about the competence of ex-FCC Chair Michael Powell:

Activists Dominate Content Complaints: I'M SHOCKED, I TELL YOU, SHOCKED!....Ah, those moral values. Via Jeff Jarvis, we learn today that national concern over moral decay on TV might have been a wee bit overstated:

The number of indecency complaints had soared dramatically to more than 240,000 in the previous year, [FCC chairman Michael] 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.

Just to put that into raw numbers, it means that last year the FCC received a grand total of 480 complaints aside from the mass spammings from PTC. Out of a population of 300 million. Does that sound like a groundswell of outrage to you?

Posted by DeLong at December 7, 2004 12:33 PM

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» The FCC, Indecency and Michael Powell from Deep Thoughts by Dan Ryan
Mediaweek has an interesting article highlighting how virtually all of the indecency complaints to the FCC are organized by a single 'grass-roots' organization, the Parents Television Council. Jeff Jarvis, Kevin Drum, and Brad DeLong have all posted to... [Read More]

Tracked on December 7, 2004 03:04 PM

» The FCC, Indecency and Michael Powell from Deep Thoughts by Dan Ryan
Mediaweek has an interesting article highlighting how virtually all of the indecency complaints to the FCC are organized by a single 'grass-roots' organization, the Parents Television Council. Jeff Jarvis, Kevin Drum, and Brad DeLong have all posted to... [Read More]

Tracked on December 7, 2004 03:07 PM

» The FCC, Indecency and Michael Powell from Deep Thoughts by Dan Ryan
Mediaweek has an interesting article highlighting how virtually all of the indecency complaints to the FCC are organized by a single 'grass-roots' organization, the Parents Television Council. Jeff Jarvis, Kevin Drum, and Brad DeLong have all posted to... [Read More]

Tracked on December 7, 2004 03:08 PM

» Buy John McCain a copy of The Constitution for Christmas! from poliart.blog-city.com
More proof that John McCain seriously has no concept of public vs. private. When did baseball become a national interest? Aren?t we fighting a war right now? McCain, Republican of Arizona, said he planned to introduce legislation &q [Read More]

Tracked on December 10, 2004 07:47 AM

Comments

By what rationale do you group those involved in the "mass mailing" project as irrelevant. If I register a complaint as a member of a group I am still an individual seeking governmental redress. Each complaint deserves to be counted as an individual complaint because each was made by a seperate individual. Mr. Bozell's group simply served to encourage and facilitate citizen action. He is to be applauded.

Posted by: TxCatholic at December 7, 2004 01:12 PM


Given that there were only 3-5 thousand people protesting the 2001 Bush inauguration (my estimate, as I was one of that sad little bunch), and that it is almost inconceivable that someone could gather thousands in an anti-war protest these days, it looks like in this country 480 complaints about anything is as much outrage as you'll ever get.

Unless two men hold hands, of course. Better protect that moral fabric of society.

Posted by: enfant terrible at December 7, 2004 01:13 PM


Nor did Little Powell say anything about the number of complaints the FCC has recieved against its policies supporting greater censorship and greater consolidation int he media. A recent email to them complaining of the environment they have created which encourages more self censorship -- eg the CBS rejection of the UCC advertisement because it wasn't in harmony with a Bush policy on gay marriage -- received the reply that the FCC had nothing to do with such network decisions. Yet it is Powell's FCC which has created the atmopshere for censorship and political lap-doggery.


Everyone here should write a letter or email compaling of the FCC's policies, and see whether Powell will note that statistic.

Posted by: paulo at December 7, 2004 01:14 PM


I always thought the 240,000 figure was substantially just the result of a few groups. The Right -- especially the Fundamentalist Right -- has been good at running mass letter-writing campaigns for decades. But just one group? This issue must have an even narrower base of support than I thought.

Posted by: modus potus at December 7, 2004 01:20 PM


Writing as a former chairman of the FCC, I think that the absence of complaints from a material number of Americans is highly relevant to the FCC's adjudication on these various indecency matters. That is, I think the appellate courts reviewing these cases should pay attention to the number and source of the complaints, and recognize that in a free society a few people cannot or should not dictate to the many what is or isn't an indecent utterance.

Posted by: reed hundt at December 7, 2004 01:53 PM


Powell's failure to highlight the narrow base of complaints isn't the bravest response he might have adopted, but he has not been the driving force behind the FCC's stepped-up enforcement of the indecency rules. Several of his colleagues (mostly Democratic) have pushed this issue hard for several years.

http://www.telecom-economics.com/movabletype/000022.html

Posted by: Dan Ryan at December 7, 2004 03:13 PM


TxCatholic;
"Mass mailing" is an extremely relevant phrase. It used to mean that an organization's membership sent individual letters on the same subject and at the same period in time. Nowadays, this phrase points to Astroturf campaigns by PR firms and outright Spam mailings.
I read ( sorry, no link, and I do not want to make to effort of digging it out again so you can treat it as hearsay ) of one person's research into compaints the FCC received on ONE instance. Of the approximately 50 'letters', only a small number came from individuals (5~9). The rest of the letters were duplicates coming from the same 'family values' organization.

So you are a member of this Council and you wrote / typed a letter by hand and sent it, good for you.
If, instead, you took advantage of the Council's automated form letter page on its web site to send a complaint, you are part of a 'mass mailing'. Congrats.

Posted by: linnen at December 7, 2004 10:54 PM


Here is an article from Ars Technica with more information about the Council's mass mailings.


(http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20041207-4442.html)


It was worse than I thought, (quoted paragraph);
"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... 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."

Posted by: linnen at December 8, 2004 09:09 AM


"ex-FCC Chair Michael Powell"
When did he step down?

Posted by: pappi at December 9, 2004 11:25 AM


TxCatholic makes a very common mistake – deciding the data mean what you'd like them to mean. There is no way of knowing that the Parent Television Council actually registered 239,520 individual complaints, rather than simply "spamming" the FCC, without looking into it. People have looked into it, and it was spamming. And I have to wonder why MediaWeek wants to believe that Powell didn't know. He is politically appointed government official, and they all have clippings services to tell them what the press and broadcasters are saying about them. Powell, in particular, has a special relationship with broadcasters, so you'd think he'd know what is being said about him over the airwaves. So it is worth noting that the story about the PTC spamming the FCC has been around for several weeks, at minimum. The first time I heard it, the guy who'd bothered to look into the assertion of 240,000 complaints had found, I believe in the FCC's own records, that there were not many, but in fact, very few people behind the complaint. Right there in the FCC data, where Powell could have known. We have to wonder whether saying Powell "apparently" didn't know represents a high standard of journalism.

Posted by: kharris at December 9, 2004 03:02 PM


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