Fox Broadcasting came under fire in November for airing a Family Guy episode that included jokes about sexual assault, but the company thinks it has found a crack in its critics' attack: At least 16 of the indecency complaints, the company says, came from fake mailing addresses.
The broadcasting company says the complaint process is too easy for "complaint mills" to take advantage of, and it wants the FCC to tighten up its process before the agency acts on complaints.
The fraudulent letters undermine the credibility of the complaint process and "reflect disdain" for the Federal Communication Commission's authority, according to a comment that Fox filed with the agency last Friday, which has the power to impose fines for indecency.
The Parents Television Council encouraged members to submit complaints about an episode of Family Guy that aired on Nov. 10 containing jokes about rape and sexual exploitation of children, and they are dismissing Fox's fraud complaints as a canard.
"Despite Fox's desperate diversionary tactic, the FCC is bound by law to act, one way or the other, on the more than 400,000 pending indecency complaints before it, including those filed over Fox's Family Guy," the Parents Television Council said in a statement Tuesday. "The FCC's responsibility to do so is not in question."
Fox was able to determine the letters were fake after identical letters filed to the FCC were also sent to Fox.
Many broadcasters have long opposed the FCC's authority to regulate indecency on the principle that it violates their First Amendment rights. The Supreme Court has broadly upheld the constitutionality of the FCC's authority to "police" television content, most recently in 2012 when it vacated challenges to the indecency rules by Fox and ABC.