Fox Flags Phony Email Addresses to Defend Its ‘Family Guy’ Sexual-Assault Episode

Company says “fraudulent” complaints undermine the federal government’s complaint process.

Creator/Executive producer Seth MacFarlane (C) poses at the Family Guy 100th Episode party held at Social in Los Angeles California. 
National Journal
Laura Ryan
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Laura Ryan
Feb. 19, 2014, 6:01 a.m.

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.

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