November 25, 2005

PTC Complains about CBS’ NCIS

Wednesday November 16th 2005, 10:51 am
Filed under: PTC

The Parents Television Council announced to the press yesterday that it has filed an indecency complaint against the CBS program NCIS. NCIS ranked fifth in last week’s Nielsen ratings.

A statement from Brent Bozell was quoted in Broadcasting & Cable, Television Week, and the New York Post.

From B&C:

The Oct. 25 episode, said PTC, “aired a scene containing a gruesome murder and blatant sexual content at a hour when millions of children were in the viewing audience.” The complaint was filed against WUSA-TV Washington by Dan Isett, director of corporate and government affairs for PTC.

The episode dealt with a murdered military wife who had been earning some extra money as an online cybersex model.

Complaints have to be filed against a station, not a network, but PTC wants the FCC to fine every station that aired the show.

The FCC does not regulate violent content, so the “gruesome murder” would not be actionable. PTC also cited a striptease scene.

FCC rules describe the indecency-weighing process thusly:

Material is indecent if, in context, it depicts or describes sexual or excretory organs or activities in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium. In each case, the FCC must determine whether the material describes or depicts sexual or excretory organs or activities and, if so, whether the material is “patently offensive.”

In our assessment of whether material is “patently offensive,” context is critical. The FCC looks at three primary factors when analyzing broadcast material: (1) whether the description or depiction is explicit or graphic; (2) whether the material dwells on or repeats at length descriptions or depictions of sexual or excretory organs; and (3) whether the material appears to pander or is used to titillate or shock. No single factor is determinative. The FCC weighs and balances these factors because each case presents its own mix of these, and possibly other, factors.

As Broadcasting & Cable’s John Eggerton pointed out, violence is not actionable. According to the rules stated above, neither is a striptease (which, no doubt, shopped short of nudity).

Welcome to another bogus, frivolous Parents Television Council complaint.

« PTC machine springs to action? »

The Parents Television Council is nothing if not well-organized. In the past, their letter-writing campaigns have been loudly trumpeted on their website and in emailed action alerts. Sending a complaint from the PTC site is ridiculously easy — accounting in part for the large numbers of complaints received by the FCC.

But where’s that NCIS complaint?

As of 1:30 Eastern time, there’s no press release on their website. (A release dated yesterday announces that the new Dennis Quaid film “Yours, Mine, and Ours” has won the PTC’s seal of approval.) There’s no dubious complaint letter just waiting to be sent. And there’s no e-alert in my inbox.

Is it possible that the PTC know this complaint is too skimpy to pass muster? Was the Bozell statement, perhaps, a desperate act of posturing? (A Wall Street Journal article posted today asks “Whatever happened to the government crackdown on bare breasts and bad words?)

Is it possible that the Bozellians, sensing that their pet issue has been placed on the back burner, really just needed to get in the news again?

By the end of the day we’ll have our own letter ready for you to send, asking the FCC to deny yet another of the PTC’s frivolous complaints.

« Update »

Through my clandestine network of super-sexy secret sources, I’ve received a copy of the PTC’s press release.

Here’s more of what they had to say about the NCIS episode. (As of 3:45 Eastern, they still haven’t asked their activists to send complaints.)

In this episode, the NCIS team tries to solve the murder of a military spouse who had been making extra money as cyber sex model. In the opening scene of the show, the model is shown engaging in an online, voyeuristic, web-cam striptease. After warnings from online viewers watching the internet striptease that a person is lurking behind her, the woman is brutally murdered by having her throat slit. The depiction of her murder is gruesome both in terms of the view of the scene and the carnage shown to the audience. In addition, the aforementioned striptease scene, the victim’s mutilated corpse, and other similar internet websites are subsequently depicted throughout the episode.

“There’s a reason why adults have to provide their legal age when subscribing to pornographic internet services. It’s incredible that CBS feels this material can be broadcast right into the family living room — and feels it’s appropriate to be shown during the so-called family hour, no less! This content, aired at 8 pm on the coasts and 7 pm in the heartland, depicts a sexual function that is patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium. CBS knew full well that millions of children would be in the viewing audience. As this episode of NCIS was seen in nearly 13 million homes, hundreds of thousands of children were subjected to this graphically violent and sexual content,” said L. Brent Bozell, president of the PTC.

I’ve always suspected it, but now it’s confirmed: The Parents Television Council is operating under a gross misunderstanding of the definition of “sexual function.”

Note to PTC: A striptease dance is not a “sexual function.”

And if you and your allies weren’t so concerned with removing all traces of sex education from schools, you might have known this. Maybe take a look at this book. Could be helpful.

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1 Comment so far

Regarding the FCC’s factor number 3 “whether the material appears to pander or is used to titillate or shock.”

That means that if a boring radio host talks about sex, that’s fine, because it’s not titillating from him.

But if a talented radio host (Howard Stern) talks about sex, that’s illegal because it’s titillating from him.

Comment by Eric Jaffa 11.16.05 @ 11:05 am

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