Unions Weigh in on Indecency Fight

Dec 1, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Hollywood unions and civil rights groups are stepping into the fray over the Federal Communications Commission’s attempt to limit the use of dirty words on TV, telling a New York appellate court that the FCC’s action could have dramatic effects on noncommercial broadcasters and “stifle” literary broadcasts.

The friend-of-the-court brief was filed in connection with Fox and NBC Universal’s challenge of a February FCC ruling that some programming that contained profanities was indecent. In it, the union and civil-rights groups claim that the ruling offers vague standards that are already prompting self censorship by broadcasters.

The groups include the Screen Actors Guild, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the Writers Guild of America East, the American Civil Liberties Union, various public radio groups and the Brennan Center for Justice.

“The FCC has established itself as an arbiter of both news value and ‘artistic necessity,’ they argued in the brief. “Such a role for a government agency is unconstitutional.”

The friend-of-the-court brief also suggested the FCC’s authority to regulate profanity rests on outdated assumptions and questioned how the agency could weigh the impact of one swear word versus another.

The amicus brief is on the Web at: http://www.fepproject.org/courtbriefs/FoxvFCC.pdf