A complaint about complaints

FCC News

What the f*k is up with this?

The FCC today released a corrected "QUARTERLY REPORT ON INFORMAL CONSUMER INQUIRIES AND COMPLAINTS" (PDF), updating the report issued on 19th May. It just irritated me all over again.

The FCC tracks complaints in several categories, and the Radio and Television Broadcasting category never ceases to amaze. They tally programming complaints in five sub-categories:

chart
  • Obscenity/Indecency/Profanity
  • Loud Commercials
  • Religious
  • Violence
  • General Content Criticism

It is obvious that complaints about obscenity are out of all proportion to other categories, even when the FCC collapses "Loud Commercials," "Religious," and "Violence" into "Other Programming Issues."

The raw data make the comparison even more stark:

Top Radio & Television Broadcasting Consumer Complaints
First Quarter - Calendar Year 2006
 JanuaryFebruaryMarch
Programming - General Criticism181415
Programming - Obscenity/Indecency/Profanity1739138,527134,865
Other Programming Issues2322

It's almost impossible to look at the chart and not wonder, "What the hell happened in February and March to draw so many complaints?" The FCC provides no explanation, elaboration, or even informed guesses. We are left to wonder. February, of course, is "sweeps month" when all the networks pull out their most sensational programming to get high ratings to be able to set high fees for commercials. But that doesn't explain March.

What I find most amazing, however, is that in the entire months of February and March, only two complaints were received about three categories: Loud Commercials, Religious, and Violence!

What's wrong with people that so many get their knickers in a terrible twist over a glimpse of a little skin or an occasional four-letter word, but can't work up any outrage over mind-numbing, gratuitous, graphic violence? To my way of thinking, the violence has a much more corrosive and damaging effect on society than a little sex or colorful language.

I suspect, of course, that those huge spikes in complaints about obscenity, indecency, and profanity are the result of organized campaigns by the Fundies on the religious right. In fact, if one had access to the actual complaints, one would probably find that many are exact or nearly-exact copies of just a few specific complaints.

It also makes me realize that I, all by myself, could easily generate a quantum leap in complaints about violence, religious, and loud commercials. As a public service, I have provided a link to the website for filing complaints (sidebar).