Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Major Networks Appeal FCC Rulings

The major TV networks are appealing recent FCC rulings that found violations of indecency rules on such popular shows as "The Early Show" and "N.Y.P.D. Blue". ABC, Fox, CBS, NBC and the Hearst-Argyle group say the FCC's recent batch of rulings contribute to a body of regulation that controls what the public may and may not see on television and further that what is indecent is unclear in the FCC's own policy. While this may have been permissible years ago, they claim, Americans now can control tv content through technology. The FCC says both Supreme Court precedent and its own authority are clear. Also chiming in are lobbying groups such as the Parents Television Council.

Read more here (may include ad) and here.

April 15, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 14, 2006

TiVo Wins In Patent Infringement Suit Against EchoStar

TiVo, the company that introduced the viewing audience to the concept of pausing television shows while it watched them, has won its patent infringement lawsuit against EchoStar, the parent company of the Dish Network. A federal jury awarded the company more than $73 million in damages, less than the $87 million the company had asked for, but enough to send Wall Street a message. Tiny TiVo's shares soared at the news of the victory. Read more here in an AP story, carried by the Hollywood Reporter.

April 14, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Second Circuit Remands With Order to Dismiss In Tribune Television Case

The Second Circuit has vacated a lower court's ruling in the case of Ellis v. Tribune Television and ordered the matter dismissed. Neil Ellis, a real estate developer, had gone to court to enforce an FCC order in the case: Tribune TV owned newspapers and tv stations in the same market. A lower court agreed with him, granting his request for summary judgment in 2005.  The Second Circuit, however, found that "the district court erred in failing to recognize the FCC's primary jurisdiction in this matter. Where a district court fails to recognize an agency's primary jurisdiction, we may instruct the district court to hold further proceedings in abeyance pending referral to the agency rather than to dismiss an action....However, while the district court's retaining jurisdiction may have been a conceivable option prior to the FCC's 2005 Order, we agree with the FCC that there is no longer any useful purpose that would be served by remanding the case to the district court....The FCC's 2005 Order extending Tribune's waiver until early 2007 has addressed and resolved the issues that the district court should have referred to the FCC under the primary jurisdiction doctrine. Accordingly, we VACATE the district court's judgment and REMAND the case with directions to dismiss."

Read the Second Circuit's opinion here. Docket no. 05-1983.

April 13, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Who's a Lard Brain?

Michael Keith-Smith, a former Conservative MP, has won a libel lawsuit against someone who called him a "lard brain," a "racist bigot", and a "nonce" on a Yahoo! message board. Keith-Smith said "lard brain" didn't offend him quite so much, but when Tracy Williams of Oldham called him a "Nazi" as well as the other things he decided to sue. The judge found Williams liable for defamation and told her to pay ten thousand pounds in damages. Keith-Smith says he also plans to sue another poster, who has also made defamatory comments about him. Read more here and here.

April 12, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Turkey Drops Charges Against Journalists

A Turkish court ordered charges dropped Tuesday against four of five journalists accused of insulting the Turkish state, but is allowing proceedings to go forward against a fifth reporter. All five were to stand trial after they raised questions about another tribunal's decision to shut down a conference on the killings of Armenians in the early twentieth century. Read more here.

April 12, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 10, 2006

New York Post "Page Six" Reporter Says Burkle Set Him Up

Jared Paul Stern, the New York Post writer now suspended pending an FBI investigation into allegations that he attempted to blackmail billionaire businessman Ron Burkle into paying him for not writing damaging stories about him, says Burkle approached him about paying for the non-coverage. Stern said Burkle linked payment to investment in Stern's clothing company, Skull and Bones. Law enforcement agents caught the meetings between Stern and Burkle on tape. Read more here and here.

April 10, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

FCC Commissioner Adelstein on Fake News

FCC Commissioner Adelstein has issued a statement concerning "fake" television news.

"Last May, I called on citizens and public interest advocates to monitor the media, and alert the FCC to undisclosed promotions that may violate our sponsorship identification laws.  Today, I am here to receive a very well documented and researched report indicating fake news is alive and well in the American media.  It shows that local news is sometimes neither local nor news.

The problem with the many video news releases these groups have uncovered is that they lead viewers to believe they are watching a real news report when instead they are getting a subtle dose of corporate propaganda.  The FCC’s issue with VNRs is not the content. The concern arises when deception replaces disclosure -- and when there is a failure to identify the source of the broadcast material. That is a betrayal of the public trust and the law.  I wonder how many of these local stations will apologize to their viewers for misleading them.

The public has a legal right to know that people who present themselves to be independent, unbiased experts and reporters are not shills hired to promote a corporate - or governmental - agenda.   The law is grounded on the principle that the public is entitled to know who seeks to persuade them so they can make up their own minds about the credibility of the information presented. 

The findings of this investigation are stunning in their scope.  It has gotten to the point that it’s often impossible for viewers to tell the difference between news and propaganda.

The findings suggest a willful ignorance of federal disclosure requirements, as well as basic journalistic ethics.  That should not be tolerated, especially by those who are trustees of the public airwaves.

It is not as if media outlets were not warned.  In April of last year, after a wave of press reports, at my insistence and the urging of Senators Inouye, Kerry, Kennedy and Lautenberg, the Commission unanimously adopted, on a bipartisan basis, a Public Notice reminding the media of its responsibilities.  It says it all: “…..whenever broadcast stations and cable operators air VNRs, licensees and operators generally must clearly disclose to members of their audience the nature, source and sponsorship of the material that they are viewing.  We will take appropriate enforcement action against entities that do not comply with these rules.”

Now is the time for us to act on this commitment.  It appears that media outlets did not heed the FCC’s clear warning.  The complaint we receive today contains voluminous evidence of possible violations of the law, all of which occurred after we issued our alert."

Read the entire statement here.  Read more about the Center for Media and Democracy and its report here.

April 10, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

FCC Opens New Period for Public Comment on Children's Television Rules

The FCC has adopted a Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, seeking public comments on proposed changes to the following five Children's Television rules: the website rule, the host-selling rule, the promotions rule, the preemption rule, and the multicasting rule. Read the Notice here.

April 10, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Disney Will Make Popular Shows Available on Net For Free

The latest episodes of "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost" will soon be available via the net for free, although not commercial free, in an experiment from ABC/Disney. Beginning in late spring or early summer, viewers will be able to see new episodes the day after the network first broadcasts them. RIght now, such episodes are available for a fee via digital download. Read more here. Contrast this decision from ABC with the flap over UK program repeats in other media.

April 10, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tenth Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Pro Se Complaint Against "Cops"; Lacks State Action

In July of 2003, Wichita (Kansas) police officer Javier Guete pulled David Mitchell over and discovered him to be driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol. During the arrest, a "Cops" film crew caught the proceeding on tape. Both Officer Guete and a "Cops" reporter tried repeated to obtain Mitchell's signature on a release form. Eventually Mitchell signed the form, "believing he would be allowed to go home. Instead, Mitchell was prosecuted and appeared on a May 1, 2004 segment of "Cops." Fox has since aired the segment several times."

Mitchell sued Fox and "Cops" for invasion of privacy and sued the Wichita Police Department under 42 USC [sec.] 1983 in August of 2005. The district court consolidated and dismissed the actions as time-barred. In its consideration of Mitchell's pro se appeals, the 10th Circuit said,

"We agree with the district court that any constitutional violation that might have occurred...became actionable in July 2003 and time-barred in July 2005. But Mitchell's appearance on "Cops" in May 2004 caused an alleged injury for which he sued within two years. Thus, the district court erred in dismissing as untimely Mitchell's [sec.] 1983 claims that derived from being showed on "Cops."  Nevertheless, [sec.] 1983 does not apply to private parties unless their conduct amounts to "state action"....Mitchell pleaded in his complaint against Fox and the producers of "Cops" that there was no state action component. Thus, Mitchell failed to plead a viable {sec.] 1983 claim...."

Read the entire opinion here.

April 10, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)