What If CBS Hosted a Teen Sex Orgy and Nobody Came?

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After the FCC fined CBS $3.3 million for a smut-filled episode of teen drama Without a Trace, CBS filed a FOIA request asking for information on complaints the show generated. The station found 4,211 people had complained about the episode's depiction of a teen orgy. But according to CBS, it's not clear that any of those 4,221 had ever, you know, seen the show:

All of the 4,211 e-mailed complaints came from Web sites operated by the Parents Television Council and the American Family Association, the stations said in a filing on Monday.

In only two of the emails did those complaining say they had watched the program, and those two apparently refer to a "brief, out-of-context segment" of the episode that was posted on the Parents Television Council's Web site, the affiliates' filing said.

"There were no true complainants from actual viewers," the stations said. To be valid, complaints must come from an actual viewer in the service area of the station at issue, the filing said.

It's amazing how 4,221 people can manage to avoid watching such programming, even as our all-powerful CBS overlords strap us down, tape our eyes open, and beam offensive images into our soft brains.

Potentially salacious, but ultimately disappointing, video clip here.

Reason's Jacob Sullum called out the complaint-generating PTC machine back in March.

NEXT: Parental Responsibility = Government Content Regulation

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  1. way to go CBS!

    this has me considering them for my fantasy league this season. er, fantasy football.

  2. I keep thinking that there’s got to be some sort of due process argument regarding the FCC’s policy of only counting complaints and not positive responses.

  3. In Reason’s ongoing quest to be banned by my firewall at work.

  4. I keep thinking that there’s got to be some sort of due process argument regarding the FCC’s policy of only counting complaints and not positive responses.

  5. It really wouldn’t be revelation at all to learn that the PTC is actually funded by the cable television industry.

    A procedural due process question could be raised based on the regs promulgated by the FTC, but Chevron leniency strongly favors the agency’s interpretation of the legislation.

  6. Damn server squirrels….

  7. I know double standards like this on network TV have been brought up before, but I do find it funny that a CBS regular like CSI, which explains gruesome deaths in very graphic detail, does not generate the excessive bitching something like this does. Not to say CSI should be pulled off; the less reach the FCC has, the better. Now that I have that off my chest, I’m done preaching to the choir.

  8. Positive responses?
    “Oh, by the way, FCC, I really loved the teen sex orgy on CBS last night. You ought to mandate more teen sex orgies.”?

  9. “A procedural due process question could be raised based on the regs promulgated by the FTC, but Chevron leniency strongly favors the agency’s interpretation of the legislation.”

    First, I don’t know enough about the FCC’s statutes and regulations to know whether they have a colorable Chevron defense to begin with. Second, Chevron deference is “weakened” when the agency’s interpretation impinges on the First Amendment. See FEC v. Christian Coalition, 52 F. Supp. 2d 45, 82 n.40 (D.D.C. 1995).

  10. Heh. You can depict a bullet entering a woman’s body on network television, but depicting a dick doing the same will get you put out of business.

    WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH THIS SOCIETY?!?!

  11. i have copied and sent number 6 post to the FCC i recommend others do same.

  12. Cecil,
    I believe that there is no chevron deference when the agency’s interpretation bumps up against constitutional interpretation/limitations, like due process. See the recently decided wetlands/waterways case.

  13. Tall:

    ‘cuz SEX is teh evil. You see, as candidate Dole said back in 1996 – kids can understand the difference between TV violence (i.e., “cartoon violence”) and real violence. But sex is confusing. And wrong. naughty. bad. no sex. that is obscene.

    (huh?)

  14. “Positive responses? ‘Oh, by the way, FCC, I really loved the teen sex orgy on CBS last night. You ought to mandate more teen sex orgies.’?”

    Not asking the FCC mandate more of them, but voicing support that the viewer didn’t find it offensive. The FCC has specifically stated that it does not consider positive responses to a program when determining whether to launch an investigation of it or whether to find it indecent.

  15. Here’s a serious question for the group… is there any chance that this law can get thrown out as a blatant violation of the 8th Amendment for excessive fines and/or cruel and unusual punishment?

    Oh, wait a minute, that means that the judiciary would run the risk of being called ACTIVIST and have thier citizenship challenged by people who aren’t even worthy to utter the word.

  16. Hands,

    I don’t think you could show a bullet going into any of the places a dick could.

  17. Dear FCC,

    I thought that the teen sex orgy on CBS was lame, unrealistic, and not representative of the sexual morality of a large segment of the American people. That said, I do not believe that the federal government should have any power to regulate such entertainment.

    Sincerely,

    A concerned citizen

  18. What, crimethink, you’ve never seen a show where they stick a gun in someone’s mouth?

  19. I don’t think you could show a bullet going into any of the places a dick could.

    Not true. (hint: Lewinski)

  20. Lame and unrealistic is right – the only nipple I saw was on some fat dude… gack! You wonder if the people who get bent out of shape by this kind of thing take off their underwear when they shower… alone… at home.

  21. I don’t think you could show a bullet going into any of the places a dick could.

    Think I saw a guy get shot in the ass once…

  22. If those people read a description of the show, and were from that so morally outraged as to send their complaint to the FCC, then that is still a valid complaint…whether they saw the show or not.

    You can depict a bullet entering a woman’s body on network television, but depicting a dick doing the same will get you put out of business.

    Right. Neither should be shown.

  23. Peachy…

    They do take ’em off, but only for a good long hard wiff.

  24. What If CBS Hosted a Teen Sex Orgy and Nobody Came?

    What?! When? Where?
    I didn’t get my invite. Must’ve got lost in the mail.

  25. Well, Horn Dog, on the video evidence you didn’t miss much. (And frankly, I’d rather trust HBO to throw a Teen Sex Orgy, wouldn’t you?)

  26. Eh, teens don’t know what they’re doing. Overrated.

  27. Hey x,
    I heard about some show where this guy in a funny outfit breaks some dude’s body then eats it and drinks his blood. That sounds like cannibalism to me. He even invites other people to do the same. I haven’t seen it, but that’s some freaky shit, man!
    It’s called “Mass for Shut-Ins.”
    Start your letter writing now.

  28. So whatever happened to that $3.3 mill? Did they get it back?

  29. What, crimethink, you’ve never seen a show where they stick a gun in someone’s mouth?

    Oops, forgot about that one. It’s been a long time. ūüėČ

  30. Hey… there was a white woman with a black man in one of those scenes… suddenly, everything is starting to make sense.

  31. You can see more bra in that video in a Sears catalog.

    Just goes to show that the imagination can provide more horror than actual visuals (if you’re the kind of person who is horrified at the thought of teenagers having sex, as the complainers clearly are).

  32. You can see more bra in that video than in a Sears catalog. And less skin than an average summer day.

    Just goes to show that the imagination can provide more horror than actual visuals (if you’re the kind of person who is horrified at the thought of teenagers having sex, as the complainers clearly are).

  33. What If CBS Hosted a Teen Sex Orgy and Nobody Came?

    Pun intended?

  34. robert wrote: “i have copied and sent number 6 post to the FCC i recommend others do same.”

    You are sending “Damn server squirrels” to them?!?

  35. The only nipples showing were male ones.

    That’s not an orgy.

  36. Why couldn’t they have had orgies like that when I was in school! Or, why was I never invited?

  37. And frankly, I’d rather trust HBO to throw a Teen Sex Orgy, wouldn’t you?

    I sure would, since “you can say ‘fuck’ on HBO!”

  38. It’s been a little while since I got laid, but don’t you normally have to take your underwear off? I don’t remember as much slow-motion necking in my experience either.

  39. I do find it funny that a CBS regular like CSI, which explains gruesome deaths in very graphic detail, does not generate the excessive bitching something like this does.

    Except that this show didn’t generate *anything*. All those complaints came from people who were simply following the orders of their PTC masters. You know, “Click here to register your disgust!” – that sort of thing.

  40. If I were in charge of the Libertarian party, I’d build a campaign around the abolition of the FCC. At least it’s a better way of building mainstream support than suggesting eliminating driver’s licenses. Outside of the “save the children crowd” (a large minority to be sure) I don’t think anyone has any respect left for that agency.

  41. I thought that remote controls and knobs are put on all TV sets.

  42. I’m with Joe. This is bullshit. As a youth, I studied as necessary to do pretty well in school. OK so-so. I was polite to people – never an arrogant prick/bully/ liar of a cad. I paid my own way through college (till I left it in too long and “accidentally” knocked up the girlfriend and had to get married and enter the job market and all that….) What the F happened to my G.D. orgy? I gotta get out of the mid-west or something.

  43. “I thought that remote controls and knobs are put on all TV sets.”

    Don’t you remember that under an Executive Order from Bill Clinton, in 1994 Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders ordered all televisions in homes with children under 18 to be permanently on and locked to the “Spice Channel”.

  44. I watched the video clip. I don’t see any reason why something like this should be on during normal viewing hours. That’s why they invented DVD players–so you can buy it to watch. Keep it off cable television.

  45. My favorite bit of stupidity by the PTC was the flap over Saving Private Ryan a couple years ago. ABC was going to run the entire movie, uncut and unedited, in observance of Veterans Day. Several ABC affiliates, including the one in my market, opted out, citing the FCC crackdown. The PTC, being good patriotic people, said that they supported ABC’s decision to broadcast SPR, as the shocking violence and indiscriminant profanity were wholesome shocking violence and indiscriminant profanity.

    But many ABC affiliates refused to air it anyway. The fact is that PTC-generated complaints had led to hefty fines, and nobody was taking any chances. This is precisely the kind of chilling effect the PTC denies happens. To them I say, how ya likin’ the petard there, Brent?

  46. Without a Trace is actually one of the highest rated shows on television and I have never heard it called a “teen drama” The youngest character is probably 30.

  47. I, myself, am neutral on the subject of teen sex orgies.

  48. Pun intended, and absolutely delicious.

    Reason always has the best headlines.

  49. I, myself, am neutral on the subject of teen sex orgies.

    Comment by: The Real Number 6 at June 16, 2006 12:18 PM

    Ha, ha!!!

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