The Parents Television Council (PTC) has been a watchdog of family values on television since it was founded in 1995 by longtime political activist L. Brent Bozell III. It is a US-based nonprofit organization which aims to “restore television to its roots as an independent and socially responsible entertainment medium”. The group’s stance if officially nonpartisan in nature, but it is known for taking a conservative stand on sensitive matters. It has embarked on a number of highly-visible undertakings, including cable choice for family-friendly networks, exposing advertisers that advertise on objectionable programming and calling attention to the disrespect of religion on television.
The PTC is mainly involved in the evaluation and rating of TV programs as well as in educating media as to what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable television fare as well as in organizing national advocacy efforts, when necessary.
Since its inception and because of the significant role it portrays on television, the PTC has been involved in a number of controversies through the years, including the following:
In November 2000, the World Wrestling Federation (now the World Wrestling Entertainment) sued PTC for false claims, libel, slander, and other charges relating to a campaign which was used to raise funds for the Media Research Center, PTC’s mother company, and the PTC. The lawsuit was settled out-of-court for $3.5 million in July of 2002. The WWE also parodied the PTC on their show.
In 2004, PTC became firmly entrenched in the public eye for its activist role regarding complaints to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) about the Janet Jackson Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show controversy. During this show, one of Jackson’s breasts, covered only by a nipple-shield, was momentarily displayed on network television. FCC chairman Michael Powell later revealed that the number of indecency complaints to the FCC had risen from 350 in the years 2000 and 2001, to 14,000 in 2002 and 240,000 in 2003. He said further that 20% of complaints lodged with the FCC in 2003 were filed by or through the PTC. Not counting Janet Jackson-related complaints, 99.8% pf all complaints were made by or through PTC. One backlash from the prominence of these revelations is a growing concern in some sectors that a single-issue activist group is exerting undue influence on the process of media regulation in the US.
In 2005, PTC and other media watchdog groups criticized the Carl’s Jr. commercial showing reality TV star Paris Hilton in a provocative swimsuit soaping up a Bentley automobile and crawling all over it before taking a big bite out of the burger.