Los Angeles (November 30, 2006)---The Directors Guild of America, Screen Actors Guild, and Writers Guilds of America, East and West joined in a legal brief filed today, arguing new standards adopted by the Federal Communications Commission to censor “indecency” in TV, film, and radio are overly vague and unconstitutional.
In the friend-of-the-court amicus brief filed in support of Fox, NBC, and CBS, all active plaintiffs in a current lawsuit, the groups, part of a coalition of 20 arts, filmmakers, and free expression organizations, urged the Second Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn an FCC ruling issued earlier this year that applied new standards for censoring indecency and profanity to complaints received between 2002 and 2005. The groups urged the court to throw out the FCC’s censorship scheme altogether, arguing that “the FCC’s efforts to regulate in this area have proven to be constitutionally unworkable.”
In a joint statement issued today from the DGA, SAG, WGAE, and WGAW, all four guilds said: “Actors, directors, and writers understand that the public, particularly parents, have legitimate concerns about the broadcasting of programming that is not appropriate for children. However, we do not believe the answer lies in the FCC’s decision to expand its authority in a way that opens all programming to arbitrary and open-ended decision making. The FCC’s decision overturns its long-standing policy and has led to random determinations about what words or content can be deemed ‘indecent’ with no regard to context or type of programming. That is why we have joined in this amicus filing today, united in our support of the television networks whose programming we all create together. We believe that the FCC should avoid exerting unwarranted influence over creative content.”
The case before the Second Circuit, Fox Television v. FCC, began after the FCC issued an “Omnibus Order” in March condemning ten programs as indecent or profane, and exonerating more than a dozen others. Four rulings---against an episode of NYPD Blue, The Early Show, and two Billboard Music Awards broadcasts---were not accompanied by fines, and therefore could be directly appealed to the court. After the appeals court allowed the FCC’s request to reconsider its rulings, the commission changed its position on NYPD Blue and The Early Show but reaffirmed the rulings against the two Billboard programs.
The Free Expression Policy Project at the Brennan Center for Justice prepared today’s brief. In addition to industry guilds and the Brennan Center, today’s brief was joined by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, Creative Coalition, Film Arts Foundation, First Amendment Project, International Documentary Association, Minnesota Public Radio/American Public Media, National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture, National Coalition Against Censorship, National Federation of Community Broadcasters, New York Civil Liberties Union, PEN American Center, Re:New Media, and Working Films.
Today’s brief can be found online at http://www.fepproject.org/courtbriefs/FoxvFCC.pdf