Today, Bill Jacobs dives in with some thoughts on indecency:
Indecency is an issue that seems to be moving further and further into the background, right? Hardly.
On the one hand we have data released by the FCC itself a few weeks ago showing that complaints to the Commission have dropped to a two year low. You might surmise that this decline (160,000 in the 4th quarter of 2004, 6,000 in the 2nd quarter of 2005) is evidence that broadcasters have gotten the message and conformed. (Note: the third quarter of 2005 did show a spike upward but it is largely due to complaints about two television shows — Fox's "The Inside" and the "Live 8" concert when the network let the Who's famous question slip out).
On top of that there hasn't been a single fine in all of 2005, more evidence, you would think, that things are quieting down.
The fact is, it's really not quiet at all and we all need to remain aware of the forces currently at work.
Two things are occurring, or about to occur that you should be aware of. First, in spite of no fines in 2005 there's reason to expect a slew of them, probably before the end of the '05. According to a recent article in Salon:
In the coming weeks, observers expect Martin to act upon between 30 and 50 outstanding indecency complaints, the first step in clearing a backlog of hundreds of allegedly inappropriate broadcasts on television and radio. He has promised to remake the indecency process, speeding FCC responses and establishing a clearer precedent of what constitutes indecent programming. "The fact that we have not had any fines this year really just means we are in the eye of the hurricane," says one former FCC official, who has been following the situation.
The second sign that things are far from calm comes from the fact the FCC has recently launched a web site, that makes filing a complaint easier than ever and walking people through the process (soon we expect to see drive throughs so people can complain without even geting out of their car).
Peggy Nance, who was named assistant to the FCC Chairman earlier this year, helped launch the site and explained:
"Anything you find questionable, I would urge you to report it to the FCC and then our lawyers in the enforcement bureau will look at it, and decide if it rises to the level of violating the law."
And conservative groups such as family.org are urging their followers to do just that. Nance herself is a former a lobbyist for Concerned Women for American, an organization that promotes Christian family values.
For many of you there's little to worry about, but for any station that lives in or around "that line," this is not the time to get complacent.