Olympics Complaints: Few & Varied

The FCC has posted the handful of complaints it got about NBC's Olympic coverage (nine, to be exact) that have gotten so much attention of late. It was more than a bare breast, or perception of the same, that drew their ire.

According to the complaints, there were also:

  • A couple of F-words during a women's volleyball game
  • Male genitalia on one of those Greek statues in the opening ceremony
  • A commercial for The Exorcist on a Saturday afternoon
  • A guy who appears, at least to the complainant, to simulate ripping a girl's clothes off and having sex (shades of the Super Bowl), also during the opening ceremony
  • "suggestive" photos of sexy Olympic swimmer Amanda Beard during an athlete profile segment.
  • The "smut" of Father of the Pride promos and Viagra commercials.

The FCC traditionally quietly deals with and dismisses complaints that cover a wide range of programs and offenses to various tastes but do not rise to the level of indecency. But it felt the need to publish the NBC complaints given the wide interest in them.

That interest has been spurred by the FCC's Janet Jackson decision in particular, and its indecency crackdown in general, which have left stations and the public unsure of what might not pass muster in the areas of nudity and language.

Fleeting nudity or adjectival F-words are now in the crosshairs.

In fact, NBC has already instituted a time-delay on a sport--NASCAR--after an errant s-word in a post-race interview drew complaints. It is also contemplating one on college football after an F-word slipped out, again in a post-game interview with an excited athlete.

Given the growing interest in and potential importance of the indecency complaints the FCC is getting, why doesn't it post them on the Web, as it does public filings in various proceedings of national interest.

According to an enforcement bureau staffer, the issue is logistics and personpower. In contrast to public comments on proceedings, the FCC generally redacts (edits out) the names and addresses of the complainants. It lacks the people to routinely do that with indecency complaints, said the staffer.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.