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Back in February, when the uproar over Janet Jackson's fairly tame Super Bowl appearance seemed to be the only thing anyone in the major media wanted to talk about, Colin Powell's kid -- FCC Chairman Michael Powell -- appeared before the U.S. Senate.

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He painted a picture of a crisis in the making. Over the previous year, his agency had received 240,000 indecency complaints, up from 12,000 in 2002 and from less than 350 during the previous two years. The public airwaves were becoming fouled with all manner of filth, he stated, and a crackdown was in order.

It would be easy to conclude that the explosion of complaints had something to do with an increase in objectionable content on television and radio.

But "Mediaweek," a trusted trade journal, recently obtained an internal FCC analysis that showed that 99.8 percent of all indecency complaints were filed by members of a tiny, radical-right fringe group known as the Parents Television Council. These are the people who watch "Lassie" reruns and find even the nightgowns worn by the late Eva Gabor on the old "Green Acres" show a little too risque.

On Oct. 12, the FCC proposed fines of nearly $1.2 million against Fox Broadcasting and its affiliates based on 159 complaints it received over an episode of "Married in America" which apparently contained footage of female strippers partially obscured by pixilation.

In the document obtained by "Mediaweek," it was revealed that all of the complaints had originated from just 23 people, most of whom were card-carrying members of the Parents Television Council.

While we don't normally stick up for much of what Rupert Murdoch's Fox does, it's insane that such a fine could be levied against a company based on the complaints of 23 members of a national audience of 5.1 million households.

The Parents Television Council is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization headed by a bozo named L. Brent Bozell III. He can often be seen pontificating on cable news shows about how American society is going to hell in a handbasket because of indecency in the media.

He bragged about, and took credit for, the dramatic increase in the number of complaints in a newsletter he sent out to members of the group.

Bozell's idea of a good show, he says, is Jerry Falwell's "Old Time Gospel Hour."

That we now have a government in place that will encourage Bozell and his nitwit ilk to dictate what the rest of us might see, hear and read is a shame. But that shame falls largely on our shoulders for allowing it to happen.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com Dec. 14 2004