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Indecency Complaints Rise Again

Indecency and obscenity complaints are up sharply.

According to the FCC's official accounting for the fourth quarter (ended Dec, 31), such complaints against radio and TV totaled 44,109 (it does not break them down by service). That is up from the third quarter and up dramatically from the quarter before.

The first quarter of 2006 will likely show a big number, too, with the American Family Associatioin claiming to have filed thousands of complaints over NBC's Las Vegas. The AFA has ramped up its online complaint process, which has worked so effectively for the Parent's Television Council (PTC).

Almost all of the fourth-quarter indecency/obscenity complaints were lodged in December with 42,190, compared to only 1,375 in November and 544 in October. That December figure inludes at least  5,643 complaints from PTC over a November Vibe Awards broadcast on UPN. It took PTC a couple of weeks to determine whether the rap performance--which had been modified some for broadcast--rose to its indecency standard. It did, said PTC.

For the three months ended Sept. 30, indecency/obscenity complaints had totaled 26,185, up dramatically from 6,161 logged during the previous three months, though almost all of that third-quarter spike came in July (23,547), with only 1,716 in August and 922 complaints in September. The fourth quarter was a reverse of that pattern.

The recent increases followed several quarters of big declines. Indecency and obscenity complaints against broadcast TV and radio had dropped from 157,016 in the first quarter of 2005 to 6,161 in the second. That latter figure compared to 272,818 complaints in the second quarter of 2004.

The FCC has not issued any proposed indecency fines or complaint dismissals in over a year, but Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein told B&C he expects it to do so by the end of the month. One reason for the dearth is that many of those complaints were settled in consent decrees.