June 15, 2006

Boycott The PTC

Looks like finally the nasty tactics of the Parent’s Television Council are getting some backlash…and some negative press! The PTC is the religious organization that has proclaimed themselves to be the National Nannys, thinking they should be the final moral arbiter of what should and shouldn’t be seen on television. It’s basically just a group of churchies that don’t like the direction society is moving in, and will do anything to hold the rest of us back to fit into their perfect little moral boxes. Of course they act like they’re doing this to “protect the children”, but they conveniently forget about exciting new technologies like the V-Chip and the off button that are already out there and able to protect children, along with a little thing called responsible parenting; instead they prefer that whatever offends them would just go away all together. They particularly like attacking television programming that doesn’t meet their approval, and to achieve their means they’ve taken to wielding the Federal Communications Commission as weapon. The PTC is able to get its members to blanket the FCC with complaints about a program, in enough numbers that the FCC usually ends up issuing a fine. The only problem is, nobody outside the PTC is complaining about these programs, and in fact they’re usually some of the highest-rated shows on the tube. But the PTC is able to use their vicious tactics to force their minority opinions onto the rest of us, and the result is that television producers end up toning down their shows because they’re afraid of getting fined. The chill in the air is palpable.

Well, now a group of CBS affiliates is calling the PTC on their bullshit, and appealing the $3.3 million in fines that the FCC levied for an airing of Without A Trace. They say that because all 4,211 complaints came from form letters from the PTC (and its lapdog the American Family Association), it really amounts to one complaint, and the idea that something could be censored based on one complaint is ludicrous. This is good because it’s nice to see the victims here finally fighting back, but it’s also nice because this is making major news, and bringing the story into the national spotlight. Some of us have known about the underhanded tactics of the PTC for a long time, me personally because Jeff Jarvis has long been on their case. Over a year ago he filed a Freedom of Information request to review similar complaints for another show that was fined, and he found the same thing: all the complaints came from PTC members, and all used the same basic form letter. The PTC has been attacking television for years, and maybe now the rest of the country will wake up to what they’re doing, and we’ll start to see some backlash.

The problem is that I’m not sure what we can do about it. I know the FCC will accept complaints, but will they also accept the opposite? Can a citizen send in good words about a program, and will those good words cancel out a complaint? With the recent record numbers that turned out to vote for American Idol, maybe the FCC should follow that lead and hold phone voting whenever they get a complaint. “Should CBS be fined for airing Without A Trace? Send a text message to this number to vote!” There has to be some way for the majority to be able to drown out the noise coming from the PTC. Scum like this likes to operate in the darkness, that’s why they have their members write these complaints, and similar Letters to the Editor, instead of issuing press releases themselves. So maybe if we just keep on writing stories about them, making major news out of them and exposing that this tiny little minority is the one behind all these attacks on TV, maybe they’ll get scared and scurry under the nearest rock. I know they won’t go away for long, but if we keep doing it and make a national joke out of them, hopefully their screechy little rants will start to lose their power.

It’s a war on culture, and culture is losing. We’ve got to turn the tide before it’s too late.

Hat tips go out to TV Guide, TV Squad, and Jeff Jarvis for this one.

Filed under The Computer Vet Weblog

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