Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Family Feud

Writer Tatiana Boncompagni Hoover (Gilding Lily) says her sister Natasha swiped chapters of Tatiana's new novel Hedge Fund Wives from Ms. Hoover' s computer and registered them with the Copyright Office as co-author. Ms. Hoover didn't indicate a motive for the internecine interloping. She does admit that Natasha ""nevertheless occasionally provided ideas relating to 'Hedge Fund Wives."" She has now sued Ms. Boncompagni for an injunction, damages, and a ruling that she, not Natasha, is the author of Hedge Fund Wives. Read a teaser about the book here.

October 28, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

FCC Announces More About Upcoming Rural Broadband Workshop In Phoenix, Arizona

From the FCC:

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and United States
Department of Agriculture (USDA) today provided additional information regarding the Rural
Broadband workshop to be held in Phoenix, Arizona, on November 20, 2008.
The workshop will be held at the Mountain Preserve Reception Center, South Room,
located at 1431 East Dunlap Avenue from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.  The workshop will be held free of
charge; however, attendees will be responsible for providing their own transportation, lodging,
and meals (http://www.mprc.net/pages/home.html).  Additional information via email will be
sent to all registrants with the agenda as well as specific logistical information. 
This workshop is designed to provide communities, organizations, and businesses in rural
America seeking to bring the benefits of broadband to their communities with an opportunity to
learn about the resources, programs, and policies of the FCC and USDA.  The topics to be
covered at the workshop include the following: different technology platforms used to provide
broadband services, USDA funding for broadband deployment, the Universal Service Fund, the
FCC’s Rural Health Care Pilot program, and wireless spectrum access.  The workshop will also
provide communities and organizations with an opportunity to share their experiences about
broadband deployment in rural and hard-to-reach areas.

For additional information about the workshop, please visit the FCC’s website at
http://wireless.fcc.gov/outreach/ruralbroadband/workshop; send an email to
ruralworkshop@fcc.gov; or contact Cecilia Sulhoff at (202) 418-0587 or Matt Nodine at (202)
418-1646.  Further information on rural programs is available on the FCC/USDA Broadband
Opportunities for Rural America website at http://wireless.fcc.gov/outreach/ruralbroadband, at a
local USDA Rural Development office, and on the USDA’s web site at
http://www.rurdev.usda.gov.

October 28, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Michael Malone on Media Bias

Over at the Volokh Conspiracy, Jonathan Adler discusses ABC's Michael Malone's concerns about bias in the media. Comments Professor Adler,

Malone also argues that media bias is potentially "dangerous" for the media itself both because it alienates the public and because it risks the imposition of government regulation of media content, such as through the "fairness doctrine." I think the former threat is real, and I think media bias hurts the bottom line of traditional media outlets. But I am not sure the "fairness doctrine" is as much of a threat to the mainstream media as Malone suggests (though it's a real threat to talk radio and the blogosphere). I also suspect (hope) that were the doctrine ever reenacted, it would not survive constitutional challenge.

October 28, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

An Analysis of the Net Neutrality Debate

Mark A. Jamison, University of Florida, Warrington College of Business Administration, Public Utility Research Center, and Janice A. Hauge, University of North Texas, have published "Getting What You Pay for: Analyzing the Net Neutrality Debate." Here is the abstract.

We analyze the effects of networks offering and charging for premium transmission service, which is central to the net neutrality debate. We find that when a network provider optimally charges for and provides premium transmission for content providers, innovation is stimulated on the edges of the network and smaller content providers benefit more than do larger content providers. Furthermore, we show that the network provider increases its investment in network capacity when it offers premium transmission without degrading service for content providers that do not purchase the premium service. Also the number of network subscribers increases.

Download the paper from SSRN here.

October 28, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Naming Brand

And...it's official. Ofcom has announced it is investigating the Brand/Ross phone calls to Andrew Sachs. Read more here.

October 28, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Guardian Publishes Transcripts of Brand/Ross Phone Calls To Andrew Sachs

In a followup to yesterday's post about the BBC's apologies to actor Andrew Sachs over offensive calls to him by radio host Russell Brand and guest Jonathan Ross, here's what the Guardian says are transcripts of those calls. The Guardian also reports that the BBC received more than 1500 complaints as a result of the calls. Can an Ofcom investigation be far behind? This incident cannot be welcome in the midst of discussion over how the BBC is to be funded in coming years. Meanwhile, Mr. Brand tried to shift some of the attention to the Daily Mail, which had attacked his behavior with a front page story, by highlighting the fact that the paper had published a letter from a nobleman praising Adolf Hitler on its front page.

October 28, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Sad News: Jennifer Hudson's Nephew Found Dead

CNN.com reports that the body inside a white Chevy Suburban is that of young Julian King, actress Jennifer Hudson's nephew, missing since late last week when the bodies of his grandmother and his uncle were discovered inside his grandmother's home in a Chicago neighborhood. His mother Julia Balfour had pled for his safe return and his aunt had offered a $100,000 reward, to no avail. Police still have no suspects in the deaths of Ms. Balfour and Ms. Hudson's mother and brother.

October 27, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Why the Media Focuses On "White Women In Peril"

Leonard M. Baynes, St. John's University School of Law, has published "White Women in Peril on Broadcast and Cable Television News," as St. John's Legal Studies Research Paper No. 08-153. Here is the abstract.

It has been approximately forty years since the U.S. Supreme Court found the Fairness Doctrine constitutional and approximately twenty years since the Federal Communications Commission (the "FCC") eliminated it. The Fairness Doctrine provided that the broadcasters were required to air important issues and to make sure that the other side of the issue was also covered. In 1969 in Red Lion, the U.S. States Supreme Court found the Fairness Doctrine constitutional under the First Amendment.

In the late 1980s, the FCC decided that because of the increase in the number of broadcast stations, cable outlets, magazines, and at that time the potential for the Internet that the audience could get information from a variety of sources, and the Fairness Doctrine was no longer needed. In Syracuse Peace Council, the D.C. Circuit found that the FCC had the power to eliminate the Fairness Doctrine, but the Court failed to address the First Amendment issues.

Since 1987, the media landscape has also distinctly changed by increased consolidation. As result, the major broadcast corporations, ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox are vertically integrated platforms often including production studios, cable stations, broadcast stations, music companies, and book publishers. Ownership limits have been deregulated to allow broadcasters to have an audience reach of 39% of households. The FCC has also been waging a battle to allow for cross ownership of newspapers by broadcasters.

Given increased cross ownership connections, the increased demand for broadcast content, the concomitant decrease in broadcast news personnel, and the demise of the broadcast fairness doctrine, the broadcasters have increased the airing of tabloid stories. This has occurred because news divisions have become profit centers in which the broadcasters and the cable companies are almost solely interested in increasing ratings of their news shows to increase advertising dollars. Competition causes the news divisions to seek tabloid celebrity stories and to cover them more intensely for longer periods in order to attract larger audiences.

The media ecology is now set up in a manner that "nudges" media audiences to consume the tabloid cookies and candy as opposed to the public interest broccoli. The Fairness Doctrine "nudged" both the media and the audience to consume information necessary for our democracy. Without that "nudge" and in fact with a "nudge" in the opposite direction, the media now broadcast and the audience consumes vast amounts of tabloid fare, instead of information that would be healthier for the American democracy.

This article examines why and how the media cover female celebrities and other women whose tragic stories are thrust into the public consciousness. The article focuses on obvious female celebrities like Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, and Anna Nicole Smith, as well as those tragic women thrust into the national spotlight that lost their lives to male assailants such as Laci Peterson, Chandra Levy, and Natalee Holloway. The common thread that binds all these women together is that they are young, white and reasonably attractive.

The anxiety over white women resonates in our popular culture. For instance, the "Perils of Pauline," serves as a historical touchtone to the current media coverage of these celebrities and other women thrust into the media spotlight. This serial was a silent film, which included "archetypal cliffhangers" that involved a leading woman character, Pauline, who each week encountered danger. Like the Perils of Pauline, the media seize on tabloid stories of white women because they resonate with the public. They increase the media's ratings, and they allow the media to cross market their products across their different media platforms. By hyping these women, the media create an echo effect across a variety of media platforms that actually sell these women's tragic stories. The white women in peril become big business dominating coverage in tabloid as well as mainstream media.

This focus is possible because of the demise of the Fairness Doctrine, the deregulation of the media industry, and the consolidated ownership of different media platforms by one or a few owners. A story is transported along a particular media company's own network. People magazine is a major node in this celebrity network, selling over 35 million issues per week. It is owned by Time Warner, which also owns CNN. So this is the major "jump off" from tabloid to legitimate news is through this connection. The "jump off" can also begin in celebrity-focused website such as TMZ also owned by Time Warner and then emerge on CNN or other network news shows. The story can eventually be made in a television movie on an affiliated network, or an E! True Hollywood Story or be published as a book. Like a virus, the increased coverage can migrate to rival media networks. Meanwhile this tabloid virus crowds out the coverage of "real" news stories about matters of public importance that the Fairness Doctrine was designed to encourage. This over-emphasis on tabloid stories makes the public less well informed and cheapens our democracy.

Download the paper from SSRN here.

October 27, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

BBC Receives Complaints Over Radio Broadcast, Apologizes To "Fawlty Towers" Actor

Once again, the BBC finds itself in the position of having to apologize for some unfortunate behavior on the part of participants on one of its shows. This time, the behavior occurred on Russell Brand's Radio 2 show, during an episode on which film critic and host Jonathan Ross was a guest. The two repeatedly called actor Andrew Sachs, who played Manuel on the classic comedy Fawlty Towers, and left prank calls on his answering machine. However, the content of the calls went far beyond fun and lurched into offensive content, including the implication that Mr. Brand had slept with Mr. Sachs's granddaughter. The pair only made things worse when they redialed and tried to apologize. Mr. Sachs listened to at least one of the recorded calls, and directed his agent to complain to the BBC. Mumerous listeners to the Brand broadcast also filed complaints. Read more here in a BBC story, and here in a Guardian story.

October 27, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Little Rock Anchor Dies of Injuries

Little Rock (Ark.) anchor Anne Pressly has died, several days after she was attacked in her home. Police still do not have a suspect. Read more here in an MSNBC.com story and here in a CNN.com story.

October 26, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

"Stop! In the Name of Law!"

MSNBC.com's Dave White recaps all those cease-and-desist letters the McCain campaign has gotten from artists who didn't give permission for the campaign, or the RNC, to use their work to promote the Senator's presidential bid. Fear not, GOPpers--Mr. White has some suggestions.

October 26, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Actress Jennifer Hudson's Mother, Brother Slain

Police have arrested William Balfour, actress Jennifer Hudson's brother-in-law, following the deaths of her mother, Darnell Donerson, and her brother, Jason Hudson, some time Thursday or Friday. Their bodies were found Friday in Mrs. Donerson's home. Mr. Balfour, who is on parole, is a suspect in the murders but has not been charged. At the same time, an Amber alert has been issued for little Julian King, Ms. Hudson's nephew, who has not been seen since the murders. Ms. Hudson is currently starring in the film The Secret Life of Bees. Read more here in an MSNBC.com story, and here in a Chicago Tribune story.

October 25, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Discrimination Or Dollars, Off Broadway

Is it all about the money? Or is something more insidious going on? Female playrights say males are more likely to get their work produced off-Broadway, and they are beginning to hold meetings in which they say so directly, to crowds of people who listen. Read a New York Times article about the issue here.

October 25, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (1)

Friday, October 24, 2008

A Reporter Takes Center Stage

The New York Times discusses Ronan Noone's new play The Atheist, about a cynical journalist, starring Campbell Scott, here. Here's a review from The Hollywood Reporter.

October 24, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Man Wants $180 Million From Oprah Winfrey and Others, Claims They Defamed Him As a Result of Extortion Arrest

Keifer Bonvillain is suing talk show host Oprah Winfrey, the FBI, and Ms. Winfrey's attorney charging that they caused him to be arrested over statements he made in a taped phone conversation with one of her company's employees in 2006 that law enforcement later determined sounded like extortion. The FBI arrested Mr. Bonvillain over the statements, but charges were dropped after he agreed to perform community service and pay restitution to a potential buyer of the taped conversation. Mr. Bonvillain now alleges that Ms. Winfrey and others have damaged his reputation. He wants $180 million. Read more here in an AP story and here in a Times of India story.

October 23, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

George Washington Law Review Issue Devoted to Access to the Media

In volume 76 of the June issue of the George Washington Law Review, "Access to the Media--1967 to 2007 and Beyond: A Symposium Honoring Jerome A. Barron's Path-Breaking Article". The issue includes

Introductory Remarks:  The Honorable Stephen G. Breyer

Access Reconsidered:    Jerome A. Barron

Substantive Media Regulation in Three Dimensions: Gregory P. Magarian

No Time For Equal Time: A Comment on Professor Magarian's Substantive Media Regulation in Three Dimensions:  Ellen P. Goodman

Hohfeld's First Amendment:  Frederick Schauer

Media Access: A Question of Design:  Jack M. Balkin

New Media In Old Bottles? Barron's Contextual First Amendment and Copyright in the Digital Age:

Neil Weinstock Netanel

Power Without Responsibility: Intermediaries and the First Amendment: Rebecca Tushnet

The Right of Reply and Freedom of the Press: An International and Comparative Perspective: Kyu Ho Youm

A Reply to The Right of Reply: Stephen Gardbaum

Make Time for Equal Time: Can the Equal Time Rule Survive a John Stewart Media Landscape?: Jonathan D. Jamow

October 23, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

The Meaning of "Red Lion" In 2008

Ronald J. Krotoszynski, University of Alabama School of Law, has published "The Irrelevant Wasteland: An Exploration of Why Red Lion Doesn't Matter (Much) in 2008, the Crucial Importance of the Information Revolution, and the Continuing Relevance of the Public Interest Standard in Regulating Access to Spectrum," in volume 60 of the Administrative Law Review. Here is the abstract.

In this Article, a contribution to a retrospective symposium dedicated to Red Lion, I argue that the "inevitable" wasteland of commercial television programming has, over time, become an "irrelevant" wasteland. The most common critique of Red Lion relates to the discredited (and nonsensical) scarcity doctrine used to justify reduced First Amendment protection for radio and television broadcasters. A larger problem with Red Lion relates to the public interest doctrine itself, which seeks to obtain the production and provision of public goods from entities with little economic incentive to meet these programming needs. In sum, the Federal Communications Commission's efforts to enforce the public interest doctrine have done little to change the programming behavior of commercial broadcasters, notwithstanding the Supreme Court's endorsement of such efforts. In thinking more broadly about the "public interest," however, government might be able to take helpful steps to improve the vibrancy of the marketplace of ideas. In particular, imposing public interest duties or regulations on Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and also on entities that own or control popular web search engines might help to facilitate realizing the Internet's full potential as the ultimate marketplace of ideas. Thus, Congress and the Commission need to fundamentally rethink the public interest project; in the contemporary United States, the need to secure public interest values relates-or at least should relate-much more to ISPs and web browser providers than to commercial radio and television broadcasters. This is so because ISPs and companies that own popular web browsers have the ability to skew access to information and ideas in ways that are utterly non-transparent. In sum, in thinking about Red Lion, we should embrace the concept of the public interest and the concomitant principle that government may enact regulations to secure and advance it, but for the concept to retain relevance, it must be redeployed and redefined to reach the most important modalities of distributing and receiving information and ideas.

Download the paper from SSRN here.

October 23, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (2)

Barbara Blake Hannah: British TV's First Black On-Air Reporter

Barbara Blake Hannah writes about breaking the journalism color barrier on British TV here.

October 23, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Annie Leibovitz on the Queen's Photograph and the BBC's Editing

Annie Leibovitz gives her recollection of the day Queen Elizabeth turned up for that photo shoot, which became the infamous "Crowngate." The BBC was eventually skewered for editing footage of the shoot that implied that the queen was upset over the situation. Read more here in a Guardian story.

October 23, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (2)

Radio Host Impersonates God in Skit on Dubai Show, Loses Job

Virgin Radio host Revin John ran afoul of the law and lost his job when he imitated the voice of God on-air in Dubai during his show on the Arabian Radio network. Such an impersonation is strictly prohibited under Islam, which does not allow the representation of God or the Prophet Mohammed. Mr. John reappeared on air to apologize and then left for good. Read more here.

October 23, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (1)