Charleston-based TV Watch monitoring the monitors at PTC, FCC 

A Decent Dispute

click to enlarge The butt of TV ads, the parents television council is also monitored by  the Charleston- based 
tv watch
  • The butt of TV ads, the parents television council is also monitored by the Charleston- based tv watch

A new Gossip Girl campaign prominently features a critique by the Parents Television Council, a group that has been monitoring "f-bombs" and butt cracks for years. The ad reads, "Mind-Blowingly Inappropriate," hoping to attract viewers because of, not in spite of, the show's ability to disgust the prudes.

While not endorsing the skin and sin of Gossip Girl and other primetime shows, Charleston-based TV Watch is trying to empower parents, instead of the Television Council and federal regulators.

In 2004, the PTC got a gem of a fight when Justin Timberlake famously exposed Janet Jackson's nearly-bare breast. Outrage soared to epic proportions, and the Federal Communications Commission fined CBS $550,000 for this slimmest of glimpses.

click to enlarge Dyke
  • Dyke

To combat the clamor for censorship, former Republican Party spokesman and Charleston resident Jim Dyke formed TV Watch in 2005 with a diverse collection of conservative, progressive, and civil rights groups, as well as several Hollywood studios (including NBC, CBS, and Fox).

"Some of the balance in the debate seemed to be lost," Dyke says.

But TV Watch doesn't endorse Dennis Franz's ass.

"People might not like everything they see on TV, and you can count me in that category," Dyke says, "but having the government step in and make decisions doesn't seem like a wise solution. Our focus is educating parents and making sure they know that they have the tools to make informed decisions."

A new campaign this fall is expected to draw more parents to the TV Watch website, www.televisionwatch.org, where parents can learn about the TV rating system and how to activate their V-Chip, a device in most televisions that blocks certain programming based on the rating. With these tools, parents don't have to complain about racy TV shows because the kids can't reach them.

TV Watch delivers the rebuttal you're likely to read in any story about the latest outrage from the Parents Television Council or a new fine from the FCC. The group is focused on putting parents in charge of their TVs, Dyke says, not the government, and certainly not the council.

The PTC's website currently features a link for parents to complain because CBS let a "fuck" go unbleeped on Big Brother. Earlier this month, the group released a new report critical of primetime television's focus on premarital sex while largely ignoring sex in a traditional marriage. The study wraps by telling readers to contact the networks, the advertisers, and their legislators.

"I don't fault them for having an opinion and speaking out about it," Dyke says of PTC. "What is wrong is seeking the government to enforce it."

And, on some occasions, the PTC's strict standards aren't strict enough. The group may have given its gold seal of approval to High School Musical 2, but Dyke said no way when it came to his five-year-old daughter seeing the Disney movie. And the Wildcats aren't the only idols getting blocked in the Dyke house.

"Hannah Montana seems a little sassy to us," he says. "But, in the eyes of the PTC, it's all appropriate programing if it's not on at 10 p.m."

Instead of the council's gold seals and stoplights, Dyke looks to the ratings at the beginning of each show. His daughter's TV viewing is set at a strict TV-Y. "Parents are struggling at a much more micro level. I have friends with a daughter the same age, and they think we're just silly," he says. "But parents have to make these decisions based on their own values and the age and maturity of their child."

In July, a Federal Appeals Court overturned the FCC's fine on Janet's "wardrobe malfunction." But TV Watch didn't celebrate. It kept the fight going against the PTC.

"They will increase their lobbying campaign with members of Congress and regulators," Dyke said at the time. "They will generate more television studies with scary titles using faulty analysis, biased methodology, and suspect omissions to influence the debate and raise money. All the while claiming to represent a majority of Americans. But they don't."

Last year, TV Watch polled parents, finding 65 percent monitor what their kids watch and 87 percent said they can do a better job of monitoring what their kids watch than the government.

The next battle will be in front of the Supreme Court over FCC fines for a "fuck" and a "shit" uttered during live awards shows on Fox. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the FCC earlier this year, calling the complaint irrational and the penalty arbitrary.

Earlier this month, three former FCC commissioners lent their unlikely support to the network's Supreme Court battle. They filed a brief with the court regarding the spiraling power of the FCC.

"(It) has radically expanded the definition of indecency beyond its original conception; magnified the penalties for even minor, ephemeral images or objectionable language; and targeted respected television programs, movies, and even noncommercial documentaries," they wrote.

Dyke doesn't fault the commission.

"Government and regulators sometimes react to what they see as a public demand," he says.

Dyke notes that the PTC's online complaint campaigns have been effective in suggesting a broad, almost pervasive membership. But some of the complaints come from people who haven't even watched the offending show. The council can rally its masses to file complaints to the FCC, but it's difficult to imagine a letter-writing campaign to the FCC in support of Grey's Anatomy or Without a Trace.

Aside from the Big Brother potty mouth, here are some other recent PTC gripes:

• A Swingtown threesome between a couple and the wife's high school sweetheart.

• The use of "MILF" on My Name Is Earl.

• Blurred nudity on America's Next Top Model.

• Naked women strategically covered on Las Vegas.

• A "cunt" from Jane Fonda's mouth on The Today Show.

• Diane Keaton's "fuck" on Good Morning America.


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