PTC protests FCC/CBS agreement


The Parents Television Council is not at all happy that the FCC ducked the indecency issue and CBS got off with "a slap on the wrist." At issue is the license renewal of KUTV in Salt Lake City. "The FCC has failed its obligation by letting CBS off the hook — not once, but now a second time — for airing the same indecent content," said PTC President Tim Winter. "The FCC has chosen CBS’ corporate interest over the public interest, but the public, not CBS, is the true and rightful owner of the public airwaves. And shamefully, the FCC announced its decision the day after Thanksgiving, trying to bury any public scrutiny. What kind of signal does this send to broadcast licensees — and more importantly, what kind of signal does this send to the public? The Commission has failed miserably to serve the public interest." Winter added that "CBS has no credibility when it says its violation of the Consent Decree was ‘inadvertent.’ The truth is that CBS first ignored broadcast decency law when airing a teen orgy scene in the first place, and then again when it ignored the terms of the Consent Decree its own attorneys negotiated to absolve itself of responsibility for the content it aired." He concluded, "Instead, CBS gets off with a paltry fine and a slap on the wrist — there is no real financial penalty to ensure that CBS will follow the decency law in the future. The $300K settlement sounds like a lot of money to consumers, but it’s a tiny fraction of the sale price of KUTV and the value of the broadcast license it uses to operate."

TVBR/RBR observation: That sounds pretty bad. Teen orgy? A teen orgy has no business being on television outside of safe harbor. But PTC calling it a teen orgy isn’t all that meaningful to us, since the group tends to go for the hyperbole when stating its case. We’d like a second opinion. IN this case, PTC thought the material indecent, while CBS, and apparently millions of viewers, did not. Defining the line between decency and indecency is an impossible task, and the instances where fines have been levied compared to other instances where they have not do nothing except highlight the apparent randomness of indecency enforcement. We read this situation as a concession by both CBS and the FCC that neither wishes this to be the case in point when push comes to shove and another indecency battle winds up in the courts.