PTC Demands a Recount - Broadcasting & Cable

PTC Demands a Recount

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The Parents Television Council is stepping up its complaint about the Federal Communications Commission's tally of indecency complaints.

Calling for a congressional investigation of FCC accounting practices, the group said that while it was "pleased" that the FCC calculated that the group had filed the "overwhelming majority of indecency complaints in the last two years," it says that overwhelming majority would have been even more if the commission wasn't lowballing the number of their complaints.

Although there have been recent reports of the PTC's volume of complaints, the fact that it was filing the majority of them is not a new revelation. FCC Chairman Michael Powell told Congress back in March that well over half of all the complaints received in 2003 came from PTC.
PTC Tuesday said that the commission was being "deliberately dishonest," pointing to the FCC's statements that there were only 159 complaints filed by Married by America, when the group says its members filed at least 4,073.

"The FCC has played games counting as just one thousands of individual complaints if its a campaign organized by the PTC," said PTC President L. Brent Bozell.

The accounting beef is not new. In fact, only two months ago, Bozell wrote the FCC suggesting that it severely underreported the number of complaints in its notice of Fox's apparent liability for a $1.2 million fine for indecency.

In a letter to Enforcement Bureau Chief David Solomon, Bozell wrote: "While reading the FCC’s decision on the Fox Broadcast Married by America, I notice the NAL states that only 159 complaints were filed. The Parents Television Council’s membership alone filed 4,073.

The FCC stood by the figure at the time, but was not commenting on the intensified indecency complaint Tuesday.

In a letter to rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) last March, just following the Janet Jackson incident, Powell conceded that the FCC had had some trouble handling the flood of e-mails. In one instance, he said, the problem was with the sender’s network. In others, the sheer volume of e-mails crashed the systems.

Powell said a new system capable of better handling high-volume e-mailings had been in place since Feb. 25. He also said that the commission was working on a system to inform complainants when their e-mail has been received. He hoped to have that in place by the end of the year.

While the commission has appeared to hold out the volume of Jackson complaints as a rationale for taking action, it has also said that it takes just one complaint to launch an investigation and potential indecency finding.

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