PTC Blasts Basic

As the Federal Communications Commission was preparing to send over its a la carte recommendations to Congress Thursday, the Parents Television Council was doing the same.

Either Congress should start regulating cable indecency, says PTC, or it should give viewers the chance to put together their own family-friendly lineups through a la carte offerings.

Saying that viewers were in dire need of cable choice to protect them from "the
most licentious, decadent and perverse content imaginable," PTC sent every member of congress what amounts to a laundry list of F-word, S-words, sexual situations and violence it it found on various basic cable shows.

PTC looked at all dayparts on seven major nets, MTV, Spike TV, Comedy Central, TBS, E!, FX and ESPN. Among its examples were TBS's Sex and the City,  the Bobby Knight character's swearing in an ESPN made-for and copious amounts of South Park dialog.

"Our report shows that obscene language and graphic sexual content are readily available on advertiser-supported basic cable,” Brent Bozell, president of the PTC, said of the "content analysis" it sent to the hill.

PTC argues that customers should not have to subsidize "filth" to get access to "the wholesome, educational and family-friendly programming available on a handful of basic cable channels,” Bozell said.

"Because of the extensive publicity surrounding Sex and the City, we believe television viewers are very familiar with the nature of the show," said a TBS spokesperson. "We have carefully edited the series to meet the standards of the TV-14 rating and we believe the content of the show is consistent with what our competition airs."

Comedy Central EVP, corporate communications, Tony Fox points out that although the vast majority of the South Park audience is 18-49, to minimize the  younger audience, the channel slates its more provocative fare after 10 p.m., which is the FCC's safe harbor trigger for indecency on broadcast TV.

"Comedy Central is a network designed for adults," he says, "though we recognize that people younger than our 18-49 target can watch, which is why we put shows like South Park after 10 p.m., and why we label it TV MA. We virtually get no complaints from our core audience, which is upscale, educated young men. We know our audience well and they know what to expect from us."

Besides, he says, "I'm not sure we want a special interest group to decide what you and I can watch on TV."

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.