professional complainers

Everybody Has Stopped Listening To The Parents Television Council’s Whining

Does it give anybody else The Sads to learn the Parents Television Council — the conservative group founded in 1995 that’s made a sport out of getting the FCC to fine broadcast networks for nip slips — is hurting? Donations are down. As is their influence. Who’s going to pick up the slack (besides the equally easy-to-outrage Media Research Center)?

Forget cartoon nudity. One of CBS’s new fall sitcoms is called “$#*! My Dad Says.” A catchy song with a highly vulgar title and chorus by the Warner Music Group singer Cee Lo Green has burned up the Web. Miley Cyrus, the 17-year-old Disney star, writhes on a bed in black underwear in her new music video. The council has tried to focus public indignation on such programming, but the efforts have mostly failed to gain serious traction. A statement it issued on Oct. 8 regarding Ms. Cyrus’s video, calling it “unfortunate that she would participate in such a sexualized video like this one,” was mild by council standards (and did not note that her father, Billy Ray Cyrus, is on the council’s advisory board).

[…] “Advertisers still fear the Parents Television Council, but not as much as they used to,” said John Rash, who teaches mass media and politics at the University of Minnesota and is a former executive at Campbell Mithun, a media-buying agency in Minneapolis. “It’s hard for the council to stir up indignation about cultural issues at a time of economic woe.”

But the PTC isn’t letting the recession hurt the image it maintains of influence.

Timothy F. Winter, the council’s president, said his organization, albeit weakened because of the recession, was as relevant as ever. This month, for instance, the council announced that it had persuaded pharmaceutical companies to participate in an initiative to alert parents about which broadcast television shows would contain ads for Viagra and other erectile dysfunction drugs. The council also see progress in forcing the greater regulation of violent video games. “The downturn had a huge impact, but I feel we’ve turned a corner,” Mr. Winter said. “We’re not out of the woods, but we are told all the time that we are the beacon of light out there. Families rely greatly on our work.” Mr. Winter said that he was confident that the campaign against CBS would bear fruit. “At the end of the day, we’re hopeful that advertisers will realize they shouldn’t be associated with excrement,” he said.

But keeping in mind: Policing the media, as GLAAD will tell you, is costly. The PTC lost almost a million bucks in 2008; revenue was down by more than a quarter in 2009; and staff cuts bludgeoned the org’s roster by 38 percent in the last two years. Which means the group is going to have to either find a major cash infusion, or start taking credit for victories it didn’t actually have a hand in — like when it complained about the allusion to gay sex on Mad Men, and the show then wrote off Bryan Batt’s character.

In the meantime, The CW will continue thanking the PTC for its ratings boost. [NYT]