FCC follies: The Olympics complaints

FCC follies: The Olympics complaints

: The FCC quietly posted to its web site the nine complaints that triggered a Commission investigation of the Olympics.

I’m betting that many if not most of them are the fine work of fans of Howard Stern and the First Amendment who have a well-developed sense of comic absurdity and enjoy painting the FCC into a corner: Hey, suckas, if you’re going to censor Stern and Jackson and Bono, then censor this! One clue: A complainer says the FCC should go after Oprah Winfrey (a rallying cry for us Stern fans; she did exactly what got Stern a huge fine but she’s skating so far). Another clue: They argue that commercials for Father of the Pride — a cartoon; it tried and failed to be a little sophisticated but it was still just a cartoon — and The Exorcist are indecent.

Why did the FCC put this up now? It could be because they wanted to cut off my Freedom of Information Act request at the pass (I filed it with Air America’s Morning Sedition and the FCC wouldn’t want either of us to have a good story). It could also be that there is some sane soul in the FCC who’s glad to have this absurdity exposed. I doubt that. But a citizen can hope, can’t he?

Here is my forensic analysis of the nine complaints.

My favorite goes after a profile of Amanda Beard:

In one of their athlete profiles they described her as the sex symbol of the Olympics, and showing some incredibly inappropriate images of her to prove their point.

Anybody have a copy? Please?

This happened during prime time, when children could be watching. Instead of celebrating the greatness of mankind as represented by the Olympic spirit, they showed pictures designed to incite lust and immorality — roots of many of the social ills facing our nation today.

This is either a brilliant Stern prankster or someone who badly needs a dose of Viagra.

Two complain about the opening ceremonies, an event so dull only people without lives could stay awake to watch for nasties. One of them whines:

How could NBC be allowed to show the male genitalia on national television, especially during prime time, in their coverage of the Olympics Opening Ceremonies. This was suppose [sic] to be family viewing time. There were children watching. I am referring to when the giant white mask that broke apart into a statue of a nude man. First we had to be subjected to the breast of Janet Jackson in the Superbowl, an [sic] now an even more gratuitous display of pornography and indecency during what was suppose [sic] to be another family viewing event.

The Washington Post gets to the bottom of this cultural scandal, reporting:

Actually, the writer is referring to the gigantic replica of a Cycladic head, so popular around 2700 B.C., that broke apart to reveal a replica of a Kouros sculpture, all the rage around the 6th century B.C.

Another complained:

To sit there with my kids and watch a guy basically rip off a girls [sic] clothes while appearing to have sex, has nothing to do with the Olympic tradition.

The Post interprets:

We believe this writer is referring to that happy couple seen frolicking — and losing some clothing as sometimes happens when one frolics — in the world’s largest puddle, during the artsy-craftsy part of the ceremonies.

FYI, that was right around the time that puddle-wading pregnant chick with the glowing belly showed up. We have been told on good authority that she was supposed to represent Leto, aka Latona, the Titans’ daughter, who, I’m here to tell you, was one skeevy chick.

Four of them complain that they heard the word “fuck” during women’s beach volley ball.

And two of them complained about commercials for curing erectile dysfunction or entertainment (which are, after all, pretty much the same thing):

While watching the Olympics women’s volleyball game, USA v. China, on Saturday 8/14, an advertisement for THE EXORCIST came on. We parents shouldn’t have to sit on a Saturday afternoon and worry what kind of messages our children might receive while watching an Olympic event. That advertisement was completely inappropriate and I found myself scrambling to keep my kids from watching that violence.

Yes, their heads started spinning and they began spewing pea soup! You’d think that these folks would like The Exorcist; the devil loses, you know. This correspondent also complains about a Cialis commercial and adds:

Is there no time at all that we can peacefully watch television. You’re so worried about Janet Jackson’s breast yet you let this kind of advertising just slide. Do your job.

Yes, let’s not be sexist! Another letter complains about Father of the Pride promos. Well, there was a lot to complain about with that turkey but not this:

I am not a prude, but subject matter shown in these commercials is not fit for family viewing.

Heh. This correspondent this goes on to describe the Viagra and Cialis commercials in detail.

We all know they are marketing to people who use the drug to enhance performance, not just to treat disfunction.

If they, instead, treated the limp like Jerry’s Kids, I assume there’d no problem.

Because of these patently if not purposely absurd letters, government lawyers and sleuths are now investigating the Olympics to see whether sex, drugs, and kids cartoons are ruining the nation’s soul.

I could argue that doping and greed are doing that. But, hey, then you’d have to ban baseball… and football… and….

: MORE: The NY Times goes to too great a length to try to analyze FCC Chairman Michael Powell’s cynical hypocrisy on the First Amendment. They note (as I did in my Nation story on this) that Powell once defending the First Amendment and even won an award because of it; now he is the national nanny.

Odd that The Times says the FCC would not characterize the complaints regarding that Olympics yet the FCC put the complaints themselves online three days ago. The FCC is gaming us.

  • Tim

    The FCC quietly posted to its web site …
    Is that like CBS quietly posting the forged documents on its web site? What noise occurs at Buzzmachine when you post something, Jeff?
    The Washington Post gets to the bottom of this cultural scandal, reporting:
    The Washington Post reported it? Wow. That’s being quiet.
    Perhaps we should encourage the FCC to post more online and the Washington Post to link to it?

  • Local news tease I’m waiting to see…
    “Coming up: what really happens when an erection goes past four hours? Film at eleven.”
    Actually, I’ve wondered why Bozell hasn’t gone after the drug companies for these ads, but then I realized they’re probably high on his contributor list.
    [heavy sigh]

  • I like Father of the Pride and TiVo it regularly, but let’s not characterize it as a “kiddie cartoon”. It’s not aimed at kids, and the creators don’t pretend that it is (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5579875/). Unfortunately, it’s being cancelled, maybe for another inane “reality” series.
    The points about censorship and “indecency” complaints that raise everyone’s hackles still remain, but don’t sacrifice accuracy in your zeal.

  • HH

    Father of the Pride was remarkably adult, of course the 9pm timeslot should have given that away. I don’t think that one was a joke.

  • Tim:
    Note that they refused to characterize the complaints to the NY Times even after they’d already posted them for the world to see. There is no link to it from any of the digests I can find.
    Kyle & HH: You’re right and I adjusted the first reference. It was hardly Deep Throat, though. And I saw the promos; they were hardly indecent (except indecently stupid).

  • Tim

    Note that they refused to characterize the complaints to the NY Times even after they’d already posted them for the world to see.

    NBC said recently that the F.C.C. had asked it to turn over tapes of the opening ceremonies of last summer’s Olympics in Athens, which included scantily clad actors and actresses portraying Greek gods and goddesses. Agency officials declined to identify the nature or source of the complaint and said they needed to review the tape before deciding whether to open an inquiry. (My emphasis)

    That is odd, isn’t it? Why wouldn’t they refer the NYT to the documents online? Could it be that the documents were placed online after being contacted by the NYT? Could it be a matter of FCC’s left hand not knowing what the right handed online folks were doing? Could it have been an error, or oversight, by the NYT (perhaps even as simple as not checking the FCC’s site before publishing the story)?
    Interesting questions, should we assume incompetence or malice?

  • Tim

    I wonder, did the FCC decline “to identify the nature or source of the complaint” to ABC, which ABC then related to the NYT, or did the FCC decline a subsequent request made by the NYT directly (after the documents were posted)?
    I’m not sure that it is clear in the story.

  • Tim

    Correction: NBC, not ABC.
    Apologies for the error and also the multiple successive posts.

  • Mike Williams

    There’s an interesting interview with Powell at Reason magazine that you might want to read.
    He sounds like a principled man in bureaucratic clothing, oh and he blames congress like all good bureaucrats. Even still, an interesting read on his views of ‘public airwaves’ and censureship.

  • John Thacker

    Like it or not, the Supreme Court, along with repeated Congressional laws (and recent near-unanimous Congressional votes to increase penalties for obscenity), very clearly give the FCC its censorship powers. Personally, I don’t like it.
    But I’m not sure exactly why you’re so eager for the FCC Commissioners to ignore the law and the Supreme Court rulings in favor of their private interpretations of the Constitution. I imagine you would scream bloody murder if a bureaucrat or political appointee did that in a way you disliked. (Understandably, too.)
    I know you think it’s unConstitutional for the FCC to regulate as it does; I believe it is too. But I don’t blame an appointee who follows the existing law and rulings. Otherwise even more madness can occur; would you like Attorneys General who ignore all laws and Supreme Court rulings that they disagree with? There’s some that they could ignore even to popular acclaim that would horrify you and me.

  • Carrick Talmadge

    John Thacker writes: But I don’t blame an appointee who follows the existing law and rulings.
    I think that Jeff is making the argument that Michael Powell is not just “following existing laws” but is rather going to great extremes in the exercise of the powers granted him. I rather agree with Jeff. To me at least, it is not at all clear that a few quack letters should result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines, and the stiffling of programming on broadcast television.
    If you personally don’t like what is there, it seems to me you have the choice not to watch it. It is odd to me that too many people would rather restrict other peoples freedom than simply turn the knob.
    In case you think I am speaking academically, my family does not have access to broadcast TV at all. Rather than subscribe to cable, we prefer to spend the money renting movies of our chosing and watching them when we would like to watch them unedited and uninterrupted. Plus I make sure my kids have access to computers and the internet. I think that this is a much richer and more culturally relevant medium than broadcast TV ever was… even before the Nanny FCC chairman took over.

  • Chris Hadley

    I went back and took a look at my tape of the opening ceremonies in the process of converting all my tapes of the events to dvd. I do recall seeing topless bodies and skin but that was it. I don’t think any of these people realize this was ancient history, that this was part of the ancient Greek culture, I mean, it’s one thing to complain about erectile dysfunction drug ads and such but this is just, ridiculous to me. Thinking about all these complaints being generated by ONE group of people makes me wonder, if there is either a lack of outrage in this society and people do not have the courage to fight for what they believe in so they let the PTC do it for them, or the networks are trying to be too much like cable, only they use sex and violence to get people in the door, and not to tell a story like on cable.
    Getting back to the opening ceremony, NBC used and has used in the past its own cameras to shoot the action in the venues and stadiums. The rest of the world uses what is called a “world feed”, which is pretty much the same thing that everyone else in the world sees, except from different camera angles, so chances are, these same “objectionable” images are the same images that were seen around the world. I wonder if the blame should go to both NBC for showing the objectionable commercials and for picking up the four letter words on their microphones, or to the Olympic organizers. What’s next, a bunch of people complaining about competitive pricing ads?