'Stay away from that $#*!,' says decency group to CBS advertisers

By Sam Tyson email | Twitter

LOS ANGELES (WCSC) - The Parents Television Council, a decency group that targets the entertainment industry, issued Monday a warning letter to the 300 advertisers of CBS' new show "$#*! My Dad Says," stating they would release the names of the advertisers unless they back away from the time slot.

The show is scheduled to air at 8:30 p.m. on Thursdays, sandwiched between "Big Bang Theory" and perennial powerhouse "CSI".

The group is following up on a May threat to out advertisers, vowing to "wage an unrelenting campaign against every local advertiser sponsoring the program," said PTC President Tim Winter.

"Unless or until CBS chooses a different title for this program, we are urging advertisers to avoid sponsoring such an abomination purported to be lighthearted fun. The advertisers have two options. Either they can be complicit in the effort to serve up excrement in front of children and families, or they can choose not to associate their products and services with excrement," Winter said in Monday's statement.

Winter says it wants to hear from the 300 advertisers by August 15 of their plans to back away from the advertising time slots, or the decency group "will inform our members and the public which advertisers want viewers to associate their corporation with excrement."

CBS has said the content of the show will not be profane in any way. CBS is unlikely to change the show's title as the network as had several run-ins with PTC in the past over content in "Big Brother," "Survivor" and episodes from the Showtime series "Dexter" which were aired during the writers' strike.

$#*! My Dad Says stars William Shatner, who plays a three-times divorced, retired military doctor who lets his out-of-work son return home as long as he follows the rules. "But Ed has a secret plan -- a second chance to be the father he never was -- it if doesn't kill them both first," says the show's promotional page.

The show is based on a Twitter account, and now a book, by the same name. The Twitter account has more than 1.5 million followers and the book, released in May, is in the Top 100 at Barnes and Noble. The two are authored by Justin Halpern who lives with his father and tweets his life lessons for humorous posterity.

Often, the slant on the humor is scatalogical and that's a step too far for the PTC.

"Beyond a port-a-potty, a laxative or a roll of toilet paper, most corporations don't want their customers to associate their products or services with excrement," Winter said. "I certainly hope advertisers agree that their hard-earned brands are worth more than this raunchy attempt at humor."

The PTC has often solicited the help of the Federal Communications Commission in punishing networks they deem to be airing objectionable material, including a $3.6 million fine against more than 100 television stations that aired a reportedly offensive episode of "Without A Trace," another CBS show.

But a ruling by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals last month issued a harsh criticism of the FCC's policy against "fleeting expletives." In a unanimous decision, the judges declared the sanctions imposed against Fox, CBS, ABC, WLS, KTRK and KMBC were both unconstitutional and "impermissibly vague."

"Sex and the magnetic power of sexual attraction are surely among the most predominant themes in the study of humanity since the Trojan War. The digestive system and excretion are also important areas of human attention," the unanimous opinion stated. "By prohibiting all 'patently offensive' references to sex, sexual organs, and excretion without giving adequate guidance as to what 'patently offensive' means, the FCC effectively chills speech, because broadcasters have no way of knowing what the FCC will find offensive."

The appeals court struck down the FCC's current indecency policy, but leaves open the door for a revised policy that adheres to the Constitution. The case has not been added to the Supreme Court docket yet, but a similar case was struck down by the High Court that did not focus on the First Amendment issues brought up by the networks. The current case focuses more on the freedom of speech issues, but centers around the issue of vagueness and not on the FCC's level of scrutiny.

The policy in question was enacted in 2004 after rock star Bono let fly an expletive during an awards show. The agency decided then that a non-literal use of an expletive could be indecent and warrant punitive action by the agency.

If the Supreme Court upholds the Second Circuit Court's decision, that policy would be nullified and possibly open the door for more "$#*!" on TV, even if only in program titles and the occasional slip during a live broadcast.

The decision would deal a considerable blow to the PTC who have had significantly less success going after advertisers than they have in pointing the FCC in the direction of alleged broadcast indecencies.

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