The number of indecency complaints had soared dramatically to more than 240,000 in the previous year, Powell said. The figure was up from roughly 14,000 in 2002, and from fewer than 350 in each of the two previous years. There was, Powell said, “a dramatic rise in public concern and outrage about what is being broadcast into their homes.”
What Powell did not reveal—apparently because he was unaware—was the source of the complaints. According to a new FCC estimate obtained by Mediaweek, nearly all indecency complaints in 2003—99.8 percent—were filed by the Parents Television Council, an activist group.
Clearly the PTC has tasted blood. Giving in to them may not have been the smartest move in the long term.
It's mostly just humorous, though; the domain that the PTC is squabbling over grows ever smaller. Anything other than public broadcast, like cable, isn't ruled by FCC decency rules, only what the market will bear. Comedy Central has run the South Park movie uncut, which contains one song so profane it stops sounding profane by the end (your brain's "profanity circuits" temporarily burn out, kinda like saying the same work over and over for a minute). But they run it at 1 a.m., and seem to have not generated much complaint because they've done it several times. Between cable, satellite, the Internet, and the increasing desirability and utility of spectrum, broadcast TV over public airwaves day's are numbered anyhow. Even if the PTC got everything they dreamed of, they'd probably just hasten the death of public broadcast, rather than end up in the world they think they are creating.