PTC Praises FCC Closing of Colbert Content Review

The Parents Television Council, best known for complaining about indecent content and pushing the FCC to act on such complaints, was full of praise for the FCC for closing its review of Stephen Colbert's irreverant riff on the President.

The FCC concluded that the comments—sharply worded barbs aimed at Trump—was not obscene, which is illegal at any time of day, or were actionable under indecency rules--they aired after 10 p.m., so even if they were indecent they were in the safe harbor and thus the FCC can't sanction them.

PTC President Tim Winter does argue the comments were indecent—a bleeped reference to oral sex, for one—but says the FCC got it right.

“It was crude. It was indecent. But it was protected speech," he said in a statement. "The FCC’s decision not to sanction CBS for Stephen Colbert’s May 1st monologue on the Late Show was the proper outcome. The audio of the profane broadcast was muted and Colbert’s mouth was pixilated. And even more importantly, the broadcast aired after 10 p.m. in all time zones, which is outside the reach of the FCC’s longstanding broadcast indecency enforcement oversight.

We applaud the FCC’s decision on this matter, and we call on CBS and all broadcast networks to uniformly adopt a mute button and pixilation for live broadcasts during primetime hours as well. If we learned anything new from this incident, it’s that the networks can take protective measures if they so choose,” he said.

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.