I think I've heard some of the best news that's come my way in a while over the weekend, when I found out from Dave Meltzer's site that L. Brent Bozell, the head of the Parents Television Council, has resigned from his leadership position. Why was I excited?
I have no problem with grassroots groups of citizens who get together to call for industries to have more scruples, to consider showing more compelling content, etc. I am disgusted by these groups, though, when they become not just media watchdogs but media censors. Warning parents about media that may not be inappropriate or calling for more family-friendly programming is one thing. Trying to eliminate programming one does not agree with is another.
I've made my opinion of L. Brent Bozell clear in the past, such as here and here. The man led the PTC through some major victories, including the decision earlier this year by Congress to dramatically increase the fines for "indecency." Again, the problem here is who gets to define indecency, and these types of fines usually lead to a certain degree of fear to air certain content or to take risks, exactly the opposite kind of environment we need to be in to encourage networks to take advantage of the new possibilities offered by convergence culture.
Bozell has been a thorn in my side as a fan since his 1999 full-fledged attack on World Wrestling Entertainment. At the time, he not only targeted WWE on the Web site but personally led a campaign against WWE's advertisers, trying to force them to drop the show. All of this, of course, is within his rights, but he then started lying in his press releases, claiming to stop people from advertising who never advertised with WWE in the first place and even claiming to stop some people from advertising who were still running ads!
WWE did two things in response--they created a group of characters called The Right to Censor (RTC) to make fun of the PTC and what WWE Owner Vince McMahon considered "Puirtanical" values, which aired on television on a weekly basis, and they sued the PTC. In fact, the lawsuit ended in a several million dollar settlement on the PTC's part and a public apology to McMahon and the WWE.
So, you may be able to understand my enjoyment when Bozell was finally removed from power. But, then, simultaneously, news has come out that the PTC has filed an indecency complaint against the Emmy Awards. Now, I was expecting some feeling of distaste over the airplane scenes when I heard that someone was upset with the Emmys, since I knew there had been some discussion of that. Otherwise, I couldn't remember what it was at the Emmys that was so upsetting.
Then I read this article from Ira Teinowitz at TelevisionWeek explaining that it was the PTC filing charges because of comments made by Dame Helen Mirren and Calista Flockhart about not falling "ass over tit" up the stairs to the stage. The article said that the PTC's major objection was more to the word "tit" than the word "ass."
The PTC has taken legal recourse here, but I'm interested in seeing what happens. Coarse language has become more acceptable in mainstream media and on broadcast networks, in primetime or daytime. I heard a character on As the World Turns call someone a "son of a bitch" not too long ago, surprising for me considering the lack of salty language in daytime for quite a while.
But we'll see what happens with this one. And, in the meantime, it seems that the PTC's claim to be watchdogs really just leads to the same old song and dance about indecency in the media, usually attacking the most trivial of moments instead of the types of trends that may really be disturbing on TV, with our without Bozell. Why doesn't the PTC put all its big bucks into helping new networks develop compelling counter-programming if they feel the needs of families are not being met, instead of trying to eliminate most of the programming on the networks?