TV Complaints to FCC Soar as Parents Lead the Way; Watchdog Group Monitors Programs, Issues Alerts
Byline: Chris Baker, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Janet Angelora steels herself every time she opens her e-mail in-box.
The Fort Myers, Fla., letter carrier never knows when she is going to receive an "e-alert" from the Parents Television Council, a national advocacy group that works to rid the airwaves of material it deems indecent.
The alerts increasingly carry headlines that make Mrs. Angelora - one of the council's 860,000 members - cringe.
"Graphic Depiction of Male Rape on The Shield. Take Action Now!"
"File a Complaint with the FCC about Sex-filled episode of 'That '70s Show.' "
"CBS's 'Without a Trace' features scenes of teen group sex during prime time - FILE YOUR COMPLAINT NOW."
"I read this stuff and I'm just floored. I think to myself, 'They're absolutely right. This is indecent,' " said Mrs. Angelora, a wife and the mother of a 14-year-old boy who is permitted to watch "Joan of Arcadia," "7th Heaven," "American Idol" and a few other shows.
The alerts have transformed Mrs. Angelora and others into warriors in the battle for the airwaves. They also have helped the Parents Television Council become the leading force in the crusade against indecency.
Each alert features a detailed transcript from the program in question. But, more importantly, the alert contains a link to an online form that people can use to file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission, which is responsible for regulating the content on broadcast TV and radio.The online forms have made filing a complaint with the FCC as easy as clicking a button. Since the Parents Television Council began promoting the online forms in 2002, the number of complaints has soared.
The FCC received 111 complaints about 101 TV and radio shows in 2000. The following year, it received 346 complaints about 152 programs.
In 2002, 13,922 complaints about 345 shows poured into the FCC's office. All but 388 of those complaints focused on four programs, including one of the Parents Television Council's top targets that year, a Victoria's Secret lingerie fashion show on CBS.
Last year, the FCC received 240,350 complaints about 318 programs. All but 513 of those complaints focused on nine shows, including episodes of Fox's "Keen Eddie" and NBC's "Coupling" that the Parents Television Council targeted.
According to its most recent statistics, the FCC received 530,885 complaints about 23 shows between the beginning of January and the end of February this year. All but 57 of those complaints focused on CBS' Super Bowl halftime show, when Justin Timberlake removed a part of Janet Jackson's top and briefly exposed her breast to millions of viewers.
FCC Chairman Michael L. Powell told a National Association of Broadcasters convention in April that he had little choice to but to respond to people who "spam" him with complaints.
The remark offended L. Brent Bozell III, a longtime conservative commentator who founded the Parents Television Council in 1995 and continues to serve as its president.
"That was a kick in the teeth. ... Spam doesn't pay paychecks. People do. Our members pay Mr. Powell's paycheck," Mr. Bozell said. …