Parents Television Council Boycott Against '$#*! My Dad Says' Fails

Sonja Flemming/CBS

Donations down 26 percent, 38 percent of staff laid-off, but org points to accomplishments such as Viagra campaign.

Is the Parents Television Council all bark, but no bite?

The watchdog group was seemingly everywhere in the media last week after it called  out a racy GQ photoshoot of Glee stars for "bordering on pedophilia," but the New York Times examines how it is growing less effective. Related: Another Glee star poses in a racy shoot.

"Advertisers still fear the Parents Television Council, but not as much as they used to," says 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." [pullquote]

The Times points to the PTC's previous successes of getting CBS and News Corporation to pay record-setting fines for indecency -- and even scaring Fox into blurring cartoon nudity on Family Guy. But now the group is weakened by a more conservative F.C.C. that doesn't need a watchdog group to pressure it to censor shows, networks that seem to mock it by airing series like $#*! My Dad Says and even internal strife by a former executive it has accused of extortion.

The council's president, Timothy F. Winter, admits the organization has been weakened because of the recession, but still points to recent accomplishments, such as detailing an initiative to have TV networks alert parents if their programs would contain ads for Viagra or erectile dysfunction drugs, and the enforcement of regulation about violent video games.

"The downturn had a huge impact, but I feel we've turned a corner," Winter told the Times. "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."

Winter also thinks the organization will be able to drive advertisers away from $#*! , even though William Shatner's show has aired with a full roster of ads (including big companies, like Burger King) each week.

"At the end of the day, we're hopeful that advertisers will realize they shouldn't be associated with excrement," he said.

The PTC released a softball statement against 17-year-old Miley Cyrus' sexy new music video, which features her writhing on a bed, calling it "unfortunate." They did not disclose that her father, Billy Ray, sits on the council's advisory board.

The Times also details the PTC's internal strife, including dwindling donations (in 2009, it earned $2.9 million, a 26 percent drop from last year -- and cut its staff by 38 percent over the last two years to make up for it), and controversy surrounding its direct-mail campaign.

In 2009, the council's former vice president for development Patrick W. Salazar wrote an email that alleged, "Almost 195,000 pieces of donor/member mail was never sent to the intended recipient… Most of these were time-sensitive docs whose value is now shot."

The council admitted to some delays, but says it is currently caught up. (Salazar was fired in November, and, according to the Times, attempted to extract thousands of dollars in severance to threatening to alert the media about the company's dysfunction. The PTC asked the Los ANgeles Police Department to look into extortion, but the city attorney failed to prosecute, alleging that Salazar did not commit a crime.)