Letter to FCC Chairman Michael K. Powell
February 5, 2002
The Honorable Michael K. Powell
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th St. SW
Washington DC 20554
Dear Chairman Powell:
We are writing to ask that you take action to stop outrageous flouting of the FCC's decency regulations by the Fox Network, specifically by the David E. Kelley show "Boston Public."
As you may know, last season "Boston Public" story lines included:
* A female candidate for class president performing oral sex on a male
opponent in exchange for his support;
* A student earning extra cash by working as a stripper;
* A teacher's prolonged sexual affair with another student;
* A deceased teacher's journal describing his sexual fantasies about a young girl; and
* A young teacher who is sexually involved with a recent graduate telling her friends that the best part of the affair is the feeling of power in having sex with a student.
On January 22, the show focused on a child who was pregnant with her father's child - though it was eventually revealed that she had a fertilized egg from her mother implanted in her womb.
The Parents Television Council, an organization that advocates for family-appropriate TV programs during prime time, makes an annual list of the 10 worst shows on television in terms of gratuitous sex, violence and foul language. Last year "Boston Public" earned the #1 Worst Show on Television slot. What is more, Fox Network captured the number five and number seven slots as well.
This is not without precedent for the organization, led by Rupert Murdoch, who has consistently borne criticism for the tone of his programming. In 1999, Bill Bennett's public organization Empower America awarded Murdoch's Fox Network their Silver Sewer Award "in recognition of Fox's outrageous contribution to the degradation and coarsening of our culture and its unswerving dedication to the pursuit of profit above principle." The group also awarded Murdoch a "lifetime achievement award" for promoting sleaze.
It is our view that shows like "Boston Public" and its ilk do not belong in prime time when any child in America can see them. We hope that you will agree.
According to a new report from the Culture and Family Institute (CFI), in the time before your tenure began the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has done little to enforce existing decency laws. The report details how over the past several years the FCC has imposed minimal or no fines, dismissed penalties and ignored citizen complaints.
However, we sense a new direction from your FCC. We were pleased that during a recent speech to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps declared his commitment to enforcing broadcast-decency laws. In the past, the FCC has only been able to wield its authority when a citizen complained of broadcast indecency, and a copy or transcript of the offending program was provided for examination. Expressing his dissatisfaction with this method, Commissioner Copps stated,
It seems to me that when enforcing the indecency laws of the United States, it is the Commission's responsibility to investigate complaints that the law has been violated, not the citizen's responsibility to prove the violations. Lack of information about what was said and when it was broadcast should not be allowed to derail our enforcement of the laws.
If you would be willing to work with Commissioner Copps to enforce our nation's decency laws more completely, we are hopeful we may begin to see some real changes in the way radio stations and broadcast-networks operate.
We hope you will begin with Mr. Murdoch's Fox Network.
Thank you for your consideration.
FOCUS ON THE FAMILY NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF EVANGELICALS
MORALITY IN MEDIA CHRISTIAN COALITION
FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL CITIZENS FOR COMMUNITY VALUES
RELIGIOUS FREEDOM COALITION AMERICAN FAMILY ASSOCIATION
AMERICAN DECENCY ASSOCIATION WILBERFORCE FORUM
AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF CHRISTIAN SCHOOLS AMERICAN VALUES
CONCERNED WOMEN FOR AMERICA CULTURE AND FAMILY INSTITUTE
SOUTHERN BAPTIST ETHICS & RELIGIOUS LIBERTY COMMISSION