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WHO'S IN CHARGE HERE?
Magpie is a former journalist, attempted historian [No, you can't ask how her thesis is going], and full-time corvid of the lesbian persuasion. She keeps herself in birdseed by writing those bad computer manuals that you toss out without bothering to read them. She also blogs too much when she's not on deadline, both here and at Pacific Views.

Magpie roosts in Portland, Oregon, where she annoys her housemates (as well as her cats Medea, Whiskers, and Jane Doe) by attempting to play Irish music on the fiddle and concertina.

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Friday, May 26, 2006

Keeping the airwaves safe for ... who?

Last week, the US Senate passed — without debate — a bill that dramatically increases the fines that can be levied on TV or radio broadcasters who air 'indecent' or 'profane' material. Under the bill, individual violations can cost a broadcaster up to US$ 500,000, and three violations can cost a broadcaster their license. A similar bill has already been passed by the House of Representatives and, with congressional elections coming up in November, you can bet that Dubya will sign whatever anti-indecency legislation winds up on his desk.
No, you can't watch that!Knee-jerk legislators and right-wing media 'activists' would have the country believe that Congress is acting in response to the public's demand that that feds act to stop a tide of indecency that's swamping the airwaves and endangering the nation's young people. But nothing could be further from the truth. According to an excellent post by Jonathan Rintels, the entire issue of broadcast indecency has been created and stage-managed by a handful of right-wing groups:

The FCC received approximately 6,500 complaints about an episode of CBS's hit show "Without a Trace," which featured a brief scene of a teen sex orgy. With so many offended Americans complaining, no wonder the FCC imposed a $3.6 million fine on CBS and its affiliates, even though the "Trace" scene was hardly remarkable to anyone who has ever watched music videos or soap operas.

But a Wall Street Journal review of the numbers found that of those 6,500 complaints, all but three appeared to originate as computer-generated form letters.

The PTC claims credit for submitting thousands of complaints to the FCC about the April 7, 2003 episode of Fox's "Married by America' that the Commission ultimately fined $1.2 million. But blogger Jeff Jarvis, former TV Guide critic, used the Freedom of Information Act to discover that "all but two came from the so-called Parents Television Council's automated kvetch-machine."

According to an investigation done by the conservative Progress and Freedom Foundation [pdf], when the PTC emails its list-serve to complain about a show, a single click on its email complaint form can generate six or more "complaints" since the FCC counts separately each complaint to each Commissioner's office and other FCC offices. Making these numbers even more phony, there is no requirement that the complainer's children or even the complainer himself actually view the offending show, let alone be offended by it. It's the PTC/FCC version of click-fraud.
[Emphasis mine]

Given the Senate vote to increase the fines for indecency, the click-fraud practiced by the right wing has been a very successful tactic in helping them to put their stamp on the programming offered by US broadcasters. As Rintels notes, broadcasters are already having to deal with inconsistent and vague FCC decisions on what constitutes indecency, and already having to deal with an earlier round of fine increases. Once the new fines are law, we can expect already timid broadcasters to be looking over their shoulders even more than they already are, and for programming that pushes any sort of boundaries to get even harder to find.

And, I'd suggest, we can expect the right-wing's 'morality police' to get even more aggressive if Democrats are unsuccessful in taking control of at least one house of Congress this fall.

You can read the rest of Jonathan Rintels' post here.

Via Huffington Post.

| | Posted by Magpie at 9:27 AM | Get permalink




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