CBS Challenges FCC On Fines Stemming From Advocacy Group Generated Complaints
June 14, 2006
CBS has told the FCC is it contesting the $3.3 million dollar fine levied earlier this year for an episode of Without A Trace, because the complaints came via an e-mail form letter from conservative organizations. CBS affiliates filed a motion earlier this week with the FCC to formally protest the fines, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The challenge carries implications across all media formats under FCC jurisdiction, including radio, as many of today's complaints are driven by advocacy group form letters.
The stations say that the 4,211 complaints over the show were entirely from the Web sites of the well-known advocacy groups the Parents Television Council and the American Family Association. The CBS affiliates say that the FCC requires a complaint to come from actual viewers in a station's market for action to be taken, and therefore the fines should be overturned. "There were no true complainants from actual viewers," the stations said.
"Permitting enforcement reliance on a uniform, national mass e-mail campaign is akin to simply permitting the commission to single out programming it dislikes -- even in the absence of any viewer complaint -- and to target that programming for punishment," said the CBS affiliates in their letter. "The commission wisely has eschewed playing the role of roving enforcer of indecency policy in the past, and it should continue to do so here."
PTC President L. Brent Bozell said to Adweek in response, "Everything the PTC has said is accurate. Every complaint filed comes from a United States citizen who, last I heard, had the constitutional privilege to petition his government. Rather than these stupid legal maneuvers, CBS and Viacom should spend time pondering why it's wrong to broadcast scenes of teen orgies in front of millions of children."