In a new Progress and Freedom Foundation report, Adam Thierer points out that the FCC's official counts of broadcast indecency complaints have been greatly inflated by two littled-noticed methodological changes: When a single organization sends a flood of computer-generated messages, each counts as a unique complaint; ditto for copies of the same message sent to different offices at the FCC.
As PFF notes, "The FCC in recent years has increased its fines for broadcast indecency and has cited rising complaints as a reason." Yet in 2003 more than 99 percent of indecency complaints came from the Parents Television Council, Brent Bozell's pressure group. The proportion was similar in 2004, if you leave out the complaints related to Janet Jackson's nipple.
"The FCC now measures indecency complaints differently than all other types of complaints," Thierer writes. "In so doing, it permits a process whereby indecency complaints appear to be artificially inflated relative to other types of complaints. Journalists, policy makers, social scientists, and others should weigh this disparate treatment when considering the significance of the reported figures." In other words, who gives a shit what Brent Bozell thinks?