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Violence Doesn't Even Make List of Top FCC Complaints

There were fewer than 1,106 complaints about TV violence in all of the fourth quarter of 2006 according to the FCC's most recent figures.

Violence did not even make the list of top programming complaints to the commission, which did include complaints about indecency/profanity and obscenity, as well as in two catch-all categories for general criticisms.

The FCC has recently said there was a TV violence problem and suggested Congress should give it the power to regulate violent programming.

In its quarterly complaint report released Wednesday, the FCC did not break out the number of complaints for violence--FCC spokesman Clyde Ensslin was unable to provide a breakout of violence complaints at press time. But that absence means there were not enough complaints to make the list of top radio and TV programming complaints, the lowest number of which was 1,106 for a category simply labeled "general criticism."

One argument is that the FCC doesn't have the ability to regulate violence, which could discourage complaints from being lodged. But, also according to the FCC, over a third of the TV shows that had indecency complaints filed against them for the first half of 2006 were cable programs, which the commission doesn't regulate either.

It was not clear whether critical comments in an open docket on the TV violence issue were counted in that complaint total, though that would only add a few dozen at most.

Meanwhile, consumer complaints to the FCC about obscenity, indecency and profanity, dropped precipitously from the third to the fourth quarters of 2006, though it was still the top category in number of complaints to the commission.

For the fourth quarter of 2006, 30,962 indecency/profanity or obscenity complaints were lodged, compared to 162,170 the previous quarter. Almost all the fourth-quarter complaints came in October (29,821), with only 835 complaints in November and 306 in December. The totals can include duplicate complaints sent to different parts of the agency, so the totals may even be smaller than that.

Although the FCC did not break out the violence complaints, under the "programming issues" category in its quarterly complaint release it lists "indecency/profanity, loud commercials, religious programming, violence, and general content criticism"; then, in a chart breaking out the number of top complaints, it gives figures for only "general criticism" (1,106); the indecency/profanity figure of 30,962; and "other programming issues," which may or may not be a collective category for violence, religious and loud commercials--the FCC was checking at press time--with only a total of 1,236 for the quarter for that category.