Variety‘s general news inbox has been getting a steady stream of form-letter complaint emails (a representative sample is posted below, with the complainers address removed) about the period CBS drama that revisits the era of spouse-swapping, Quaadludes and wide lapels, etc.
Some folks seem to be pretty upset about this, even though virtually every MSM review of the show has noted that in fact a whole lot of suggestion but very little sex.
These emails, addressed to Variety‘s D.C. bureau, appear to be copies of complaints sent to local CBS affils — hence the request for us to “place a copy of my complaint in your files according to FCC regulations.” (Last time we checked, the office of Peter Bart is the regulatory agency that governs Variety.)
The Federal Communications Commission could conceivably take indecency action against CBS affiliates in Mountain and Central time zones that air “Swingtown” at 9 p.m., an hour before the “safe harbor” block of 10 p.m.-6 a.m. where programming cannot be policed by the FCC. It’s interesting that the letters don’t refer to “Swingtown” as being “indecent” but “offensive” and a violation of “local community standards.”
The “community standards” issue is one aspect that the FCC considers in indecency cases (judging its by recent decisions) but the real litmus test is whether or not the material offers a graphic depiction of “sexual or excretory organs or activities.”
Again, for all the coupling hinted at in “Swingtown,” there’s not a whole lot sexual and certainly no excretory stuff on screen. But in the eyes of the Parents Television Council, which seems to be behind these emails, “Swingtown” has the power to “drive a stake through the institutions of marriage and family,” according to a PTC press release issued Monday urging CBS affils to refuse to carry the show.
— Cynthia Littleton
Santa Clarita, CA 91350-2136
June 9, 2008
1627 K St NW, 10th Fl
Washington, DC 20006
I am offended by the content of the CBS program “Swingtown.” The offensive content clearly violates our local community standards and does not reflect your license obligation “to serve the public interest.”
I urge you to refuse to air future episodes of “Swingtown.”
I also ask you to place a copy of my complaint in your files according to FCC regulations.