The Parents Television Council (motto: "Because our children are watching") is the main organization leading the way in sending indecency complaints to the FCC. They are one of the most significant reasons that television indecency complaints have increased from 111 in 2000 to 545,000 in the first quarter of 2004. Just last week, they launched a new website (Cleanup.TV) to facilitate even more FCC indecency complaints (PTC Launches New Website to Facilitate Filing and Tracking FCC Indecency Complaints).
Thus, you would think that Hollywood movie studios (many of which are heavily involved in broadcast as well) would be more than reluctant to increase the visibility and power of the PTC. You'd be wrong.
According to a report in the Hollywood Reporter on Monday, movie studios are accepting the PTC Seal of Approval for their movies and using it in their advertising (PTC tries softer approach in film foray):
"When marketing a family film, it is always helpful to have the support of an organization such as the Parents Television Council," said a spokeswoman for New Line Cinema, which used the PTC seal in advertisements for 2003's "Secondhand Lions." "The seal of approval helps audiences identify family-friendly product and also lends credibility to a film targeted to that audience."Why is this a bad idea?
A Miramax spokeswoman said the PTC seal of approval helped the studio position its recent feature "Ella Enchanted" as a "film that offers quality entertainment for the entire family." Warner Bros. Pictures used the seal in print ads for its Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen movie "New York Minute," and Universal Pictures is employing it for "Two Brothers."
Indeed, the push to apply the PTC seal of approval to films could be seen as a marketing initiative for the PTC itself. Having the logo prominently featured in newspaper ads may in time raise the group's profile beyond the narrow world of media watchdog organizations. Screening events could also provide an incentive for new members to join the PTC, but Mahaney denied that the PTC's outreach to filmdom had anything to do with burnishing the PTC's own image.Look, I don't have a problem with independent rating organizations. I think it is fine that groups will make the effort to rate content for their audiences. It doesn't bother me that they might promote some content and denigrate other content. That is their call. This is a free country. However, the PTC goes well beyond that. They use their organizational skills to encourage the government to censor content. They send tens of thousands of complaints to the FCC (which the FCC foolishly take as representative of the country). They are driving a truck through the First Amendment loophole the Supreme Court created in Pacifica.
That's bad enough. Now, in order to sell a few more tickets, movie studios are more than willing to sell out their broadcast brethren. Smart, Hollywood, real smart.
Bonus: Check out this PTC editorial cartoon that depicts the "public" and "government" pulling a rope wrapped around the throat of "Hollywood" (Weekly Editorial Media Cartoon: Feb. 10, 2004). Why does the image of Hollywood selling the rope to the PTC come to mind? Why does the phrase "useful idiots" seem appropriate?