FORMER FCC HEADMEN RAP INDECENCY CRACKDOWN

A former FCC commissioner and the commission's former general counsel have filed an amicus brief supporting the television networks who are fighting the FCC's crackdown on indecency. Noting that they were both involved in the FCC's decision in the "seven dirty words" case, Henry Geller and Glen Robinson said in their court filing, "We urge the court to take this occasion to hold that the Commission's expansive and aggressive new campaign of enforcement goes beyond the limitations assumed by the Supreme Court when it affirmed the FCC's indecency doctrine in 1978." Additional friend-of-the-court briefs were filed by the Screen Actors Guild, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the east and west units of the Writers Guild of America, the Directors Guild of America, and the American Civil Liberties Union, among others.

PRIMETIME GETS A REPRIEVE

The veteran ABC news magazine Primetime will return to the network's regular lineup next week for a five-episode "themed" series, bannered Primetime: Basic Instinct. The series will feature hidden-camera footage of such situations as how people deal with a prejudiced cab driver or people talking loudly on their cell phones in restaurants. Primetime has used some of the footage in the past. Reporting on the five-episode run, today's (Friday) Hollywood Reporter observed that it was not clear whether Primetime will continue in the time period after it ends. The trade paper quoted Jeffrey Bader, executive VP of ABC Entertainment as saying that Primetime will definitely be given a regular time slot in the summer.

KARMAZIN WANTED TO BUY CNN

While Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone may fret over the company's recent inability to put together a deal to buy MySpace, the company's former President and COO, Mel Karmazin, said Thursday that he wishes he could have bought CNN from Time Warner. Speaking to a Reuters media conference in New York, Karmazin, who is now CEO of Sirius Radio, said that he had hoped Time Warner chief Dick Parson would try to add Cablevision's systems to Time-Warner cable and would sell Viacom CNN to raise the cash for the acquisition. Karmazin said that he regarded a combined CBS/CNN operation as an ideal synergy. Not only would it be able to combine news staffs in bureaus all over the world -- "that's just the cost side," he remarked -- the combined operations would have allowed "putting the reporters in other parts of the world where you don't have news bureaus."

NBC BATTLES MEXICAN NETWORK

NBC has challenged the license of a Spanish-language TV station in Los Angeles, claiming that the Mexican broadcasting company that leases it is corrupt and lacks "character qualifications." The U.S. Network claims that the Mexican company, TV Azteca, the country's second-largest broadcaster, used strong-arm tactics to shut down the production of a television show NBC's sister network Telemundo was taping in Mexico City, forcing it to move the production to Miami. In an interview with today's (Friday) Los Angeles Times, Luis J. Echarte, chairman of Azteca America, said, "We view this as a very simple ploy to damage our reputation. They came to Mexico and they violated our laws, and then they went back up to the States, and now this." Broadcasting and Telecasting, in reporting on the FCC filing, commented that it "could be a way to force other U.S. agencies ... to put pressure on Mexican authorities to level the playing field for U.S.-owned companies to produce programming in Mexico" The license of the station, KAZA-TV, Channel 54, owned by Pappas Telecasting, was due to come up for renewal today.

CASTING COMPANIES PUT OUT "WHITES ONLY" SIGNS

Despite federal law barring discrimination in employment based on race, 69 percent of all casting notices this past summer specifically asked for white actors, according to a study by the UCLA School of Law and the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center, and reported in today's (Friday) Los Angeles Daily News. "Casting directors take into account race and sex in a way that would be blatantly illegal in any other industry," Study author Russell Robinson observed. The study also found that ethnic minorities were not cast in about 80 percent of first-, second- and third-billed leading roles. "When we get to the bus captains and the busboys [roles], then we get into the Latinos," commented Alex Nogales, president of the National Hispanic Media Coalition.

BSKYB CHIEF LABELS U.K. REGULATORS "AUTHORITARIAN"

BSkyB chief James Murdoch has lashed out at British regulators, calling current oversight policies "authoritarian." Murdoch's comments came in the midst of controversy over his satellite company's acquisition of 17.9 percent in the commercial network ITV, a move damned by Virgin chief Richard Branson as an attempt to block competition. British regulations prevent BSkyB from acquiring more than 20 percent of ITV. Although he did not cite specific regulations that he objected to, Murdoch, regarded as the heir apparent to News Corp Chairman Rupert Murdoch, said that those that are now in place amount to "a basic reduction in human freedom."

Brian B. at Movieweb
Brian B.