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TV Note: 2/11/02

Monday, February 11, 2002

FCC asked to probe Fox for indecency

When Fox News Channel personalities Hannity and Colmes were giving a big fat plug to their guest, Focus on the Family President James Dobson, and his book "Bringing Up Boys" on their show last week, they did not know that Dobson was putting the finishing touches on a letter to the Federal Communications Commission asking it to investigate their boss Rupert Murdoch's Fox broadcast network for indecency.

In the letter sent to FCC Chairman Michael Powell -- and to the news media -- 15 organizations, including Focus on the Family, Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition, and Donald Wildmon's American Family Association, asked the FCC to begin by looking into David E. Kelley's Fox drama series "Boston Public" (8 tonight).

"It is our view that shows like 'Boston Public' and its ilk do not belong in prime time when any child in America can see them," the groups said, citing story lines in which a female student running for class president performs oral sex on a male opponent in exchange for his support, a student works as a stripper, and a teacher has an affair with a student, among others.

Fox says the series, airing at 8 p.m. Mondays, "uses controversial, topical and surprising story lines that get viewers talking about the state of education today."

It has been recognized by the Ad Council for helping prevent high schoolers from dropping out. It also won an Environmental Media Association award for an episode about contraception and population growth, and an NAACP Image Award, among others.

Calls to Kelley and to Fox for comment were returned by a network rep who said that the show "deals dramatically and responsibly with real issues, often sensitive issues that face our children every day in our schools.

"Fox stands firmly behind David E. Kelley and his extraordinary work on 'Boston Public.'"

In their letter, the 15 organizations chide the FCC for requiring complainants to supply a copy or a transcript of the program they're complaining about. They note commissioner Michael Copps' recent statement that it should be the commission's responsibility to investigate complaints, not a citizen's responsibility to prove a violation.

"If you would be willing to work with Commissioner Copps to enforce our nation's decency laws more completely, we are hopeful we may begin to see some real changes in the way radio stations and broadcast networks operate.

"We hope you will begin with Mr. Murdoch's Fox Network," the letter concludes.

A spokesman for Powell said he had no comment on the letter and that the FCC looks into all complaints sent to it.

(Lisa de Moraes, The Washington Post)

Enron film

A movie about the unfolding Enron scandal is in development for FX.

The cable channel has joined with Artisan Television on the project promising an "inside look" at the energy corporation that is the focus of congressional hearings.

"The dramatic guts of the story -- cronyism, dishonesty, ambition and capitalism gone awry -- are taking shape with each passing day," said FX entertainment president Kevin Reilly.

Lowell Bergman, the former "60 Minutes" producer portrayed in the film "The Insider," will serve as consultant on the project. Bergman reported on Enron's relationship to the California energy crisis in a PBS "Frontline" documentary last year.

The air date for the movie is uncertain.

(Associated Press)

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