America: We’re Cleaning Up our Act! Or maybe just dangling shiny trinkets in front of the complainers? The FCC reports (pdf link) that indecency complaints against broadcasters to the agency have fallen dramatically, from 4,368 in the second quarter of 2007 to only 368 in the third quarter, the most recent time period for which data is available. The agency recorded an even more ridiculous drop from the first quarter of 2007, when 149,457 complaints were received. Wait, nearly 150,000 to 4,000 to 300? What gives? It turns out this kind of roller coaster of complaints isn’t new at the FCC: as Mother Jones has covered before, the numbers jump around a lot. In 2003, complaints went from 351 in the second quarter to over 272,000 in the third. Ars Technica posits that activists like the Parents Television Council (whose campaigns may be responsible for a majority of complaints) have been distracted by Grand Theft Auto, but I’d say they’re probably out there forwarding e-mails about Barack Obama being a secret gay Muslim terrorist. Isn’t Q3 2007 about when that got started? I’ve included a handy graph (above right) to help us see if there’s any connection.
Of course, the FCC’s hands are tied anyway right now, since legal challenges to indecency standards and fines abound at the moment. But if you’re worried our buddies at the FCC are sitting around with nothing to do, don’t fret: Radio and Records reports that actual inquiries to the agency (as separate from complaints) actually rose from Q2 to Q3, 2007, from 3,576 to 16,745, but over 75% of those regarded the upcoming conversion to digital TV that has America’s rabbit-ear-utilizing populace confused and terrified. Hmm, that brings to mind another chart I could make: