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Press Release

September 22, 2006

PTC Petitions FCC to Uphold Rulings on Expletives


FCC Rulings Are Accurate and Enforceable Under the Indecency Law


LOS ANGELES (September 22, 2006) – The Parents Television Council™ has formally petitioned the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to uphold its decisions that it is indecent to broadcast the "f-word" and "s-word" over the public airwaves when children are most likely to be in the audience.  ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and Hearst-Argyle Television collectively filed a court challenge to assert the right to air these expletives on television at any time of day, despite Supreme Court precedent to the contrary.


In a letter to William Davenport, chief of the Investigations and Hearings Division of the FCC Enforcement Bureau, PTC Executive Director Tim Winter said that "the Commission's original ruling accurately relied upon FCC precedent, as well as the rule of law."


"It is clear that the broadcast networks would prefer to assert a ‘right' to air unlimited profanity at any time of day rather than submit to the established and reasonable principle of protecting children between 6:00 AM and 10:00 PM – a standard which has already been upheld by the Supreme Court.  That ‘right' asserted by broadcast licensees is indeed their right, but only after 10:00 PM.  In light of its own precedent, it is the Commission's responsibility to vigorously enforce the law as written and to carefully adjudicate the hundreds of thousands of indecency complaints it receives from the American people who own the broadcast airwaves.


While the networks assert that parents should rely on technology such as the V-chip and ratings system, Winter asked that the FCC dismiss this faulty argument.  "First and foremost, the V-chip relies on a ratings system in order to function.  A recent study by this organization found that television program ratings are arbitrary, capricious and inaccurate – inaccurate in fact up to 60%-80% of the time.  Ratings were not just inconsistent across the various television networks, but individual networks actually rated similar content differently.  One reason why the rating system is unreliable is that the networks, themselves, rate their programs.  The advertisers, who are the networks' true customers, often choose not to sponsor maturely-rated programs, so the networks face a financial conflict-of-interest to rate programs accurately.  This conflict of interest runs counter to broadcast licensees' requirement to serve the public interest.


"Perhaps the most fatal flaw in the so-called technology solution is that the very programs cited [by the FCC's] Omnibus Order would not have been blocked by the V-chip.  The ratings for the programs in question would not lead a viewer to believe that any indecent language would be present in those programs.  Consequently, even if used properly by every family in America, the V-chip would not have prevented a single viewer from being subjected to the indecent language at issue.  How then can this be remotely viewed as adequate to protect children from indecent programming?  The simple fact is that it cannot.


"But most importantly, and we must be very clear on this point, no amount of warning, rating, or blocking mechanism absolves broadcasters from adhering to their public interest requirements, among them the adherence to the broadcast decency law.  Simply put, it is the broadcasters' responsibility – those who hold licenses to use the public airwaves at no charge and at great profit to themselves – to ensure that they are in compliance with the law.


"The law is clear.  Pacifica dictates that, to be found indecent, material must be found in context to be patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium.  It is abundantly clear that test of law was met and the Commission acted forthrightly under its obligation to enforce the law," Winter concluded.


For a full copy of the letter, or to speak with a representative from the Parents Television Council, please contact Kelly Oliver at (703) 683-5004, ext. 140.

The Parents Television Council™ (www.parentstv.org®) is a non-partisan education organization advocating responsible entertainment. It was founded in 1995 to ensure that children are not constantly assaulted by sex, violence and profanity on television and in other media. This national grassroots organization has over one million members across the United States, and works with television producers, broadcasters, networks and sponsors in an effort to stem the flow of harmful and negative messages targeted to children. The PTC also works with elected and appointed government officials to enforce broadcast decency standards. Most importantly, the PTC produces critical research and publications documenting the dramatic increase in sex, violence and profanity in entertainment. This information is provided free of charge so parents can make informed viewing choices for their own families.




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