Fox and its affiliate association have advised the FCC it needs to correct the flaws in its complaint system before it considers acting on any indecency complaints.
In a filing with the commission, Fox said that its investigation of complaints filed against an episode of Family Guy revealed a "disturbing" tactic "in which apparent complaint mills grind out fraudulent form complaints from apparently fake 'viewers' using bogus addresses."
Fox said its owned stations had received copies of complaints that were "substantially identical," and that had also been submitted to the FCC as being from viewers across the country.
"Each of these letters, however, was postmarked from a Miami, Florida post office notwithstanding that the 'viewers' claimed to be from 16 different communities," Fox told the FCC. "Worse still, Fox’s subsequent investigation revealed that every single 'address' in the complaints was fraudulent. Rather than consumer homes, the addresses appearing on the complaints corresponded to empty fields, vacant lots, parking areas, retail establishments, or industrial facilities. A substantial number of independently-owned television stations affiliated with the Fox Network received similar complaints, with the same flaws and also all postmarked from a Miami, Florida post office."
Fox pointed out that its stations could only discover the bogus addresses because the supposed complainants supplied copies to the stations. Fox said that since the FCC redacts the names and addresses of complaints when it does let broadcasters see them, it's impossible to find out how widespread this practice may be.
Fox did not mince words. "The Commission cannot responsibly administer a narrow indecency enforcement policy, basing investigations on bona fide complaints, if it allows itself to be duped by sham filings," it said.
Fox wants the commission to tighten its complaint procedures, but also to acknowledge that the bogus complaints "undermine whatever residue of constitutional authority may remain in the FCC’s indecency enforcement toolkit."
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