Federal Trade Commission chairman Timothy Muris said he sees no way for his agency to investigate the fairness or accuracy of Fox News Channel's slogan, "Fair and Balanced," without getting into First Amendment territory where the commission doesn't belong.
Responding to a petition by MoveOn.org that the slogan is false advertising, Muris said, "I am not aware of any instance in which the Federal Trade Commission has investigated the slogan of a news organization. There is no way to evaluate this petition without evaluating the content of the news at issue. That is a task the First Amendment leaves to the American people, not a government agency."
MoveOn.org and other liberal advocacy groups unveiled the petition at a press conference in New York Monday, where Common Cause President Chellie Pingree anticipated Muris' concerns, though clearly disagreed with Muris' ultimate conclusion: “This is not about First Amendment rights,” said Pingree. “Cable television’s news and information programs are clearly protected by the First Amendment. It is important to understand that Fox News’ deceptive marketing of that product is not so protected.”
MoveOn, a backer of the new anti-Fox documentary Outfoxed, is leading the charge, having filed the complaint with Federal Trade Commission, which asserts that Fox News maintains a Republican bias in its news coverage, and is therefore its slogan, “Fair and Balanced” is deceptive advertising.
After the press conference in New, perhaps 20 MoveOn.org members, walked five blocks to Fox News headquarters, where they taped complaints to the window and handed out copies of Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism, to News Corp. employees. --Abbie Sparks contributed to this report.
Broadcasting & Cable Newsletter
The smarter way to stay on top of broadcasting and cable industry. Sign up below
Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.