PTC: Allegedly Bogus Complaints Should Not Hamstring FCC

The Parents Television Council has taken issue with Fox TV's assertion that it needs to fix a flawed indecency complaint process before it attempts any more indecency regulating.

PTC says that any complaints that turn out to be bogus—Fox asserted it had found a number of such complaints against an episode of Family Guy—should be discounted. But it says that the 16 complaints Fox identified should not be reason for the FCC to ignore hundreds of thousands of others. Fox said in a filing at the FCC that since the agency redacts names and addresses, it was impossible to tell just how many complaints might be bogus (the complaints Fox found came from phony addresses that were copies of complaints that had been sent to Fox TV stations by the complainants).

The complaints in question were over an episode of Family Guy, a show PTC has frequently complained about itself in the past.

"To whatever extent an indecency complaint filed with the FCC can be shown to be defective, those complaints should be set aside and dismissed. Despite Fox’s desperate diversionary tactic, the FCC is bound by law to act, one way or the other, on the more than 400,000 pending indecency complaints before it," said PTC director of communications and policy Dan Isett, "including those filed over Fox’s Family Guy."

PTC did send an email to members encouraging them to file a complaint against that episode if they felt it violated their communities' standards of decency, said a source with the group, which is standard procedure.

The complaints Fox cited included some language from the PTC e-mail alert, but Isett says PTC did not file those complaints.

"We didn't encourage the filing of any bogus complaints," said Issett, "and we never would."

John Eggerton

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.