Jewish Journal

Howard Stern and the Parents Television Council Fallacy

by Rob Eshman

May 15, 2012 | 2:30 am

Why do journalists covering Howard Stern’s debut on NBC’s America’s Got Talent tonight keep quoting the Parents Television Council opposition to Stern as somehow important?

Howard Stern went national tonight—and America’s most reviled DJ began the transformation into America’s most beloved reality show judge.  I predict Stern will go from Satan to sweetheart in less than a season.

That’s because, as I’ve written here for years now, Howard Stern is among the century’s most innovative, creative, intelligent and just plain entertaining entertainers.  America will soon discover that too.

All the news reports leading up to Stern’s debut—from Matt Lauer to The Yentas (i.e., The View) to the LA Times create faux drama by quoting anti-Stern statements from an organization called the Parents Television Council.  The Parents Television Council has called for a boycott of AGT advertisers to punish them for bringing Stern, whom they call vulgar and indecent, to network TV.

Can we just be clear that the PTC is B.S.?

Since its founding—and initial burst of attention—in 1995,  the PTC has steadily declined over the years by any objective measure: fundraising, membership, staffing, leadership.

I can tell you the PTC is laughably irrelevant, but why not let the facts tell the story?

Open up the non-profit organization’s Form 990 tax-filing and the awesome powerlessness of PTC is all there, in the numbers.

Fundraising. In 2006 PTC received $5.1 million in income. In 2010, $2.9 million.  The decline year over year has been steady and inexorable.

Membership. Of that $2.9 million, the filing shows $152,000 in “membership dues.”

The minimum contribution for membership is $15—which works out to about 10,000 members. That squares with a 2010 report in The New York Times in which a former financial officer, Patrick Salazar, claimed that the PTC, which purports to represent millions of average Americans, has a membership of just 12,000 people.

The bulk of PTC’s income comes from a small handful of conservative foundations. The conservative Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, for instance, donated $5000 to the group in 2010.

Staff. The organization’s staff has steadily shrunken over the past few years.  It now lists just three employees—how effective is any national organization with 2 senior staff and a secretary?

Leadership. Founder L. Brent Bozell III stepped down a few years ago and was replaced by executive director Timothy Winters.  (The 990 shows Bozell still received $24,000 in compensation last year, as a board member).  Who has ever heard of Timothy Winters?

More Fun Facts: According to the Form 990, PTC paid The Mail Room $3836 to engage in direct mail solicitation. That campaign brought in $296.

Social Networking. Parents Television Council’s Facebook page has 97 LIkes. Howard Stern’s has 97,000. (The Jewish Journal has 1800. Hey, if you like this post and disdain the PTC, go ahead and Like us back).

Bottom line: Any reporter that quotes the Parents Television Council’s opposition to Howard Stern with the implication that PTC is significant, is committing journalistic malpractice.

Oh, wait my favorite fact about the PTC is this:  On its web site the Parents Television Council proudly lists the members of its advisory board along with their pictures.  The first advisor listed is Steve Allen. 

Steve Allen has been dead 12 years.

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Rob Eshman created the blog Serious Stern on June 17, 2009.  Serious Stern is devoted to a serious (hence the name) exploration of the cultural impact of Howard Stern.

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