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Unions Tell Court To Scrap Indecency-Enforcement Regime

The First Amendment appears still to have a lot of friends in Hollywood.

A coalition of 20 groups including the major unions representing filmmakers, performers, writers, broadcasters and others, asked the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in an amicus to overturn the FCC's new profanity standards as outlined in four findings issued last March.

But the groups went beyond the case to argue that the court should scrap the FCC's entire indecency enforcement regime, arguing that it its efforts to enforce indecency and profanity standards has become "constitutionally unworkable," because they are overly broad and inconsistently applied.

Those profanity findings against Fox, CBS and ABC were challenged in the court, which is accepting briefs and plans to hear oral argument Dec. 20.

“The FCC’s arbitrary censorship system is no more tolerable than allowing government agents to tear pages out of library books,” said Steven Shapiro of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Among the groups filing the joint brief are the Directors Guild of America, Screen Actors Guild, Writers Guild of America East and West and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

That follows the filing earlier of a brief by the Center for Creative Voices in Media.

The FCC gets to respond to those assertions Dec. 6 in their brief to the court, but it has defended the policy as in step with the publi--pointing to the complaints it receives--and criticized broadcasters for what the chairman's office argues is seeking a free pass to swear at will over the airwaves, a characterization CBS, for one, has firmly disputed.

The FCC gets to defend its Janet Jackson fine to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals by Dec. 26 or, as one FCC insider put it, "merry Christmas."