PTC President Defends FCC Pursuing Fleeting Expletives

Parents Television Council President Tim Winter responded Friday to suggestions the FCC was off the mark in pursuing fleeting expletives and that the commission had effectively turned over the monitoring function of TV content to PTC.

Responding to a court brief backed by a group of former FCC officials including three former chairmen, Winter said that their brief was not accurate.

The former chairmen had said that the FCC had abandoned its former, more restrained policy toward indecent speech. But PTC said that the difference was that there was only one "F word" on broadcast TV in 1998, for example, while it appeared "no less than 1,147 times on 184 different programs in 2007."

"The majority of the 1,147 times came in the form of bleeped or partially-bleeped 'f-words,' said a PTC spokesperson, "or various forms of the 'f-word' such as 'motherf***er.' In many instances the explicit word was discernable to the viewer."

PTC has long argued that bleeping and blurring are hardly sufficient protections given that the word or image is usually discernable from context or insufficiently blocked.

"If the former commissioners believe the public interest does not include or contemplate limiting ‘f-bombs’ on broadcast television until after 10 p.m.," said Winter, "then they are woefully out of touch with the American public. A majority of Americans, Congress, and the Supreme Court, all agree that expletives should not air over the publicly-owned
broadcast airwaves when children are in the viewing audience."

The chairman had also called for a broader inquiry into the underpinnings of indecency regs on broadcasters that are not applied to cable or satellite, saying if there were ever a justification for lesser treatment based on the argument broadcasters are uniquely pervasive, it not longer applies.

“If the former commissioners and the broadcasters want to have the same treatment of broadcast as other forms of media," said Winter, "then every public interest obligation of a broadcaster – every aspect – must be reconsidered, not just the indecency portion."

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.