Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Lorne Manly on Payola

The New York Times has an essay on the Sony payola scandal, and the history of payola since the 1930s. Read Lorne Manly's piece here. The term payola has now also been attached to "pay for play in other situations, such as in tv and radio broadcasting, and even in judicial bribery scandals. For more about the history of payola and Congressional attempts to regulate it, here's a short bibliography.


Dannen, Fredric, Hit Men: Power Brokers and Fast Money Inside the Music Business (Knopf, 1991).

Congressional Hearings

Congressional Acts Amendments: Hearings before before a subcommittee of the Committee on        Interstate and Foreign Commerce, House of Representatives, Eighty-sixth Congress, second session, on conditional grants, pregrant procedure, local notice, local hearings, payoffs, suspension of licenses, and deceptive practices in broadcasting, April 12 and 13, 1960. SuDocs no. Y 4.In 8/4:C 73/17/960.

Master's theses

Hultin, James C., The Quiz-Payola Investigations 1958-1960 (Kent State, 1971). On the tv quiz show scandals.

Selby, Shawn, They Knocked the Rock: Congress and the Payola Hearings (Ohio University, 2002).

Law Review Articles

Kielbowicz, Richard, and Linda Lawson, Unmasking Hidden Commercials in Broadcasting: Origins of the Sponsorship Identification Regulations, 1927-1963, 56 Federal Communications Law Journal 329 (2004).


American Hot Wax (1978). Tim McIntire plays Cleveland DJ Alan Freed, the champion of rock and roll, who was eventually brought down by the payola scandals. Fran Drescher, Laraine Newman, Jay Leno, and rock and roll greats Frankie Ford, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and others are also in this cult classic.

Quiz Show (1994). Rob Morrow as lawyer investigator Dick Goodwin, Ralph Fiennes as Charles van Doren and John Turturro as Herbie Stempel are terrific in this dramatization of the "Twenty-One" game show scandal. Paul Scofield was nominated for an Oscar for his performance as Mark van Doren.

July 31, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Richard Posner on the Media

Richard Posner reviews the traditional media, and books analyzing their work, in a lengthy essay in today's New York Times Book Review. Read it here.

July 31, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, July 29, 2005

Ex Miami Herald Columnist Talks to Investigators About Conversation With Teele

Ex Miami Herald columnist Jim DeFede has spoken with investigators about the talk he had with Arthur Teele before Teele killed himself on July 27. The Miami Herald terminated DeFede after the journalist admitted he taped Teele's conversation without Teele's consent. Teele, a former city and county commissioner, was under federal indictment when he shot himself in the lobby of the Miami Herald building on Wednesday. Read more here in the Miami Herald here and here.

July 29, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

California Appeals Court Upholds Ruling to Keep Documents Sealed in Jackson Civil Case

Using the independent review standard, the 2nd Appellate District of the California Court of Appeal has upheld a lower court ruling to keep sealed several documents in the 1997 civil case, Abdool v. Jackson.  In this action, NBC Universal had wanted the court to unseal documents filed in the case, which concerned a lawsuit brought by singer Michael Jackson's former employees. A jury returned a verdict in Jackson's favor. While the parties did not oppose unsealing most of the documents, the judge in the case "ordered that 25 documents were to remain under seal. These included the judge's and research staff's notes. The trial court made the following findings: `[T]hat with regard to the specific documents listed below, there exists an overriding interest that overcomes the right of public access to said records based on the fair trial rights of Michael J. Jackson...the privacy rights of witnesses and other third parties....[T]hat there is a substantial probability that the overriding interests set forth above would be prejudiced if the records were not sealed; [and] and that the proposed narrowly tailored..." NBC Universal claimed that the denial of the motion violated the 1st Amendment as well as the California Rules of Court. Among other things, it alleged that "the trial court placed undue emphasis on Jackson's celebrity status". However, the appellate court found that "the combination of celebrity status and the type of crimes alleged justifie[d] sealing. The disclosure of the accusations made in the civil case prior to selection of the jury in the criminal case could only lead to a public condemnation of the defendant before he can defend himself in court."

Read the unpublished ruling here.

July 29, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Investigation Into Alleged Fraternization on "American Idol" Continues

Continuing with its investigation of an alleged affair between fomer "American Idol" contestant Corey Clark and current judge Paula Abdul, Fox TV has now hired an unnamed "independent counsel" to check into the situation. Fox Entertainment head Peter Liguori told a meeting of the Television Critics Association that the network takes allegations of improprieties "seriously." Read more here. Visit the American Idol website here (warning: may load with a lot of sound). Meanwhile, ABC faces a controversy of its own with its summer hit reality show, "Dancing with the Stars." The winner, Kelly Monaco, was the only celebrity contestant who is an ABC star. Many viewers thought she was the weaker of the two celebrity finalists, and conspiracy theorists have opined that the vote was fixed. See a story here.  See the Dancing with the Stars website here.

July 29, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Australian Journalists Face Jail for Failing to Reveal Source

In a case somewhat parallel to the Miller/Cooper case in the U.S., two journalists for the Herald Sun face contempt charges for refusing to reveal the name of a source for a story in which they detail a plan, since abandoned, not to provide military veterans and survivors of veterans with benefits. An individual suspected of being the source will stand trial soon on criminal charges. Read more here. An investigation into the plan resulted in a report. Read the results here.

July 28, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Libelous (10 letters)

When Abraham Saffron saw the answer given to the clue in an Australian newspaper "Sydney underword figure nicknamed Mr. Sin" given as his own name, he believed he had been defamed. So he sued.  On July 28, a four person New South Wales jury agreed with him, to the extent that it found that calling him "a Sydney underworld figure" was unacceptable. The nickname "Mr. Sin" seems to have been all right. Another jury will determine whether Mr. Saffron should receive damages. Read an article in The Australian about the case.

July 28, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

First Lawsuit Filed in "Grand Theft Auto" "Hot Coffee" Video Game Flap

Florence Cohen, an 85-year-old New York grandmother, has filed a class action lawsuit over the "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" video game, the one with the hidden sex scene, which she purchased when it was rated M (for players 17 and older). She bought the game in late 2004, for her 14-year-old grandson. She is now seeking damages for herself and others similarly situated. The FTC has also instituted an investigation. Read more about Cohen's lawsuit here.  Read more about the FTC's investigation here. Read more about video game ratings here.

July 28, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Some Papers Refuse to Run "Doonesbury" Strip; Trudeau Defends Reference to Rove

Saying that one of the President's nicknames for Karl Rove is "illuminating", Garry Trudeau defended his own use of it in the cartoon strip "Doonesbury" and objected to the editorial decision of those newspapers that decided to edit out the nickname on Tuesday and Wednesday. Trudeau said a decision not to run the strip would have been all right, but editing out the "objectionable" nickname, said to be the unlovely (but one assumes companionable?) "Turd Blossom," was not. Read Editor & Publisher's interview with Trudeau here. Read CNN's account of the "Doonesbury" flap here. See the July 26, 2005 "Doonesbury" strip here.

July 27, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

British Ads for U. S. Drama "The L Word" Not In Breach

The Advertising Standards Authority, the UK regulator for television advertising, has ruled that posters for the US series "The L Word", broadcast on Living TV, were not in breach of UK guidelines, in spite of more than 600 complaints that the ads were "offensive, degrading to women and unsuitable to be seen by children." The ASA "noted that Living TV had sought Copy Advice and taken care in the siting of the posters. It acknowledged that the posters had offended some people, nevertheless, the Authority considered that the images were not sexually explicit and accurately reflected the contents of the TV programme. It concluded that the posters were unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence, be seen as degrading to women or unsuitable to be seen by children." See an article about the complaints in the Media Guardian here. Read the ASA's adjudication here. See "The L Word"'s website here.

July 27, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

The Law Firm Debuts Thursday Night

David E. Kelley's new show The Law Firm debuts Thursday, July 28, at 9 p.m. (8 Central time) on NBC. A mix of reality show and legal drama, it features twelve young lawyers competing for a prize of $250,000. See the official website here.

July 27, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Photographer Convicted in Diaz Case; Across the Pond, One Lawyer's View

In the wake of John Rutter's conviction in the Cameron Diaz case, a British lawyer suggests that "misappropriation could be treated as theft" in the U.K. as well. See Edgar Forbes' Media Guardian article here. See an L. A. Times story about the Rutter conviction here.

July 26, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Sony Reaches Settlement in Pay for Play Scandal

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that Sony BMG has reached a settlement amounting to about $10 million with New York A.G. Eliot Spitzer over charges that it arranged for radio stations to boost play of Sony artists such as Jennifer Lopez and Celine Dion. Spitzer continues to investigate other industry players such as Universal. Read the story here.

July 26, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, July 22, 2005

Media Law Opinions From S. Ct. Nominee Roberts

The New York Times has posted a list of Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts' opinions here. Among them are media law opinions such as Consumers Electronics Association v. FCC, Sioux Valley Rural TV v. FCC, DSMC Inc. v. Convera Corp., In re Tennant, A.T.& T. v. FCC, and Universal City Studios v. Peters.

July 22, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Polanski Wins Case Against Vanity Fair

Director Roman Polanski has won a 50,000 pound judgment against Vanity Fair and Conde Nast for defamation after the jury handed down its verdict today in London. The defense acknowledged that it made factual errors in its story but maintained that the story was substantially true. Its case may have fallen apart when Beatte Telle, the woman whom Polanski was alleged to have approached, was apparently never called to give evidence. Observers estimate that Conde-Nast's legal fees could run as high as high as 1.5 million pounds. Read more in a Times of London story here and in Reuters' story on CNN's website here.

July 22, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Polanski Jury Considers Its Verdict

After listening to four days of testimony and a summing up by the presiding judge, the jury in the Roman Polanski libel trial against Conde Nast and Vanity Fair has retired to consider its verdict. The jury listened to testimony by several celebrities including--by video link from Paris--Polanski himself, writer Lewis Lapham, and actress Mia Farrow.

Read more about the sensational trial here. Read an article from Variety discussing Farrow's testimony here.

July 21, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

"Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" Likely to Vanish From Major Retailers' Shelves

Because of the Entertainment Software Ratings Board's re-rating of it from "Mature" to "Adults Only", the video game "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" is likely to be dropped from most big video retailers in the near future. Generally major retailers do not like to sell AO rated games, according to the industry spokesgroup Interactive Entertainment Merchants Association. The re-rating came after it became clear that a downloadable fix, called "Hot Coffee", allowed players to view a pornographic scene that maker Rockstar had inserted. Rockstar asserted that it had not wanted the scene to be available to users (but then why make the scene available at all?) The "Hot Coffee" download is available at several sites on the Web.

Rockstar now says it plans to release a new version of the game without the objectionable scene. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" was the best-selling video game of 2004.

Senator Hillary Clinton also suggested that federal intervention might be forthcoming to ban sales of sexually explicit video games to minors. Illinois' governor was sent similar legislation this year (HB 4023). The synopsis reads: "Provides that a person is guilty of distributing harmful materials to a minor by knowingly distributing such material knowing that the minor is under the age of 18. Changes various penalties for violations of the amendatory provisions. Provides that it is an affirmative defense to selling a sexually explicit or violent video game to a minor that the video game was pre-packaged and rated EC, E10+, E, or T by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board. Includes admission to explicit motion pictures." California's Speaker Pro Tem Leland Yee is sponsoring Assembly Bill 450, which "would prohibit the sale and rental of violent video games that depict serious injury to human beings in a manner that is especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel, to persons who are 16 years of age or younger." Read more here.  It was introduced on February 15 and sent to the relevant committees (Judiciary, Arts, Entertainments, Sports, Tourism, and Internet Media). Referred out, on July 13 it had its third reading in the General Assembly.

Read Variety's article on "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" and its re-rating here.

July 21, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Hearings on Federal Shield Bill Continue

Hearings on the federal shield bill proposed by Senators Dodd and Lugar are moving forward even as Deputy Attorney General James Comey decided not to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee today, saying the bill was "bad public policy." In prepared remarks Comey stated the bill would "create serious impediments" to the government's ability to fight terrorism. Senator Lugar's statement in support of the bill emphasized the need for clarification of reporters' rights given the split in the circuits. "Since Branzburg, states and the federal courts have pursued different courses of action with regard to extending a reporters’ privilege against disclosing confidential sources. Today every state and the District of Columbia, except Wyoming, has, through either legislation or the judiciary, created a privilege for reporters not to reveal their confidential sources. My own state of Indiana has a shield law that provides an absolute protection from qualified reporters having to reveal any information in court, whether published or unpublished, across a variety of media formats. The federal courts of appeals, however, have an incongruent view of this matter. The 11th Circuit allows the privilege to extend to civil and criminal cases. The 9th Circuit applies the privilege to civil and criminal cases but not in grand juries. The 5th Circuit holds that reporters are only permitted protection from government subpoenas when they are intended to harass the media. The 7th Circuit has yet to decide whether there is a privilege, although, in one case, it expressed skepticism of the federal courts of appeals that had concluded that Branzburg established a privilege."

Read Senator Lugar's remarks here.  Read more about today's hearing here.

July 20, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

District Court Grants National Geographic's Motion to Dismiss in Defamation Case

Kevin Nanji, convicted along with his wife of holding a young woman in involuntary servitude in violation of 18  U.S.C. sec. 1584 among other crimes, brought a civil action against National Geographic alleging that in the course of its feature article "21st Century Slaves" published September 2003, it defamed him in a "sidebar" story when it stated among things that he was convicted of raping the young woman. National Geographic filed a motion to dismiss, "or in the alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment." Examining the facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, the court stated that "...Nanji appears to allege that National Geographic's September 2003 edition published defamatory false statements. In particular, Nanji objects to National Geographic's printed statement of "raping [the victim]" on the basis that "this allegation is false, pernicious and damaging inasmuch as [Nanji and Satia] had not been convicted for rape." Nanji's allegation fails to state a claim of defamation because the gist of National Geographic's published statement is substantially true. In determining whether allegedly false statements are substantially accurate, a court must consider the statements in their entirety...Had the Sidebar expressly stated that Nanji was convicted of raping his victim, then Nanji would have successfully stated a claim. However, the plain language of the Sidebar does not state that Nanji was convicted of rape. Instead, the Sidebar suggests that Nanji was sentenced to nine years incarceration for, among other things, "raping her." Indeed, the first sentence of the Sidebar uses the language of sentences imposed on persons convicted of as traffickers, which would imply to a reasonable observer of the Sidebar that Nanji was convicted of a trafficking offense and not of rape. Therefore, the plain text appears to shed light on the meaning of the term "raping," as used in this context...[T]he Sidebar article clearly conveys the message that "rape was merely a fact of the case rather than the underlying conviction. This Court's textual interpretation is supported by public records."

The court pointed out that National Geographic relied on Department of Justice press releases as well as public records in writing its story, and that "evidence at the criminal trial showed that Nanji `sexually abused' the victim.'" Further, even if the magazine had made an error as to the the exact nature of the type of crime involved, "[I]t is worth noting that a long line of cases holds that `technical errors in legal nomenclature in reports on matters involving violation of the law are of no legal consequence.'"

National Geographic also asserted a defense based on the fair report privilege. "Under Maryland law, earlier cases suggested that the fair report privilege `operated only when the report is fair, accurate, and made without malice.'...The modern view, however, discards the search for malice. Therefore, under the modern view of Maryland law, a publication falls within the fair report privilege if the defendant demonstrates that the publication is a substantially fair and accurate report. As applied here, this Court finds that National Geographic's published Sidebar statement was fair and accurate. As previously mentioned, National Geographic's reporting was consistent with judicial findings and statements concerning Nanji's conduct. Furthermore, National Geographic's reporting of the information contained in these government documents was fair and accurate....Accordingly, National Geographic is entitled to the fair report privilege, and Nanji's defamation claims are therefore dismissed. For the aforementioned reasons, this Court GRANTS National Geographic's motion to Dismiss Nanji's complaint, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. An Order consistent with this Opinion will follow."

Read the opinion here. Read the September 2003 National Geographic feature article here.

July 20, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

From Across the Pond....

For a view of the Karl Rove flap from a British journalist see Julian Borger's piece in the Guardian here.

July 19, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)