NCTA Backs Fox News in WashLITE Lawsuit

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association, whose members include the owners of CNN, MSNBC, ABC News, and CBS News, has joined the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press to support Fox News in its defense of a lawsuit filed by a group, WashLITE, critical of Fox News/Fox Business Network commentary on the coronavirus. 

WashLITE said that commentary is deceptive commercial speech in violation of consumer protection laws. 

Related: Fox Corp. Seeks Dismissal of COVID-19 Complaint 

Fox News, backed by Fox Corp., says WashLITE is distorting that speech and misreading the First Amendment--WashLITE suggests cable outlets lack speech protections accorded print--and has called for the suit to be dismissed.  

"The transcripts, and the true facts, show that Fox highlighted the dangers of the Coronavirus even as Fox commentators criticized its exploitation for political purposes," Fox Corp. has told the court.

NCTA and the committee have submitted an amicus brief in support of Fox News, according to a copy obtained by Multichannel News, and have asked the Washington State Superior Court to make the brief part of the record and allow NCTA and the committee to participate as amici. 

They are specifically concerned about what they called the "dangerous implications of Plaintiff’s contention that news providers that distribute content over cable systems are somehow excluded from the First Amendment’s purview."

The brief suggests that the problem with plaintiff's argument is straightforward. 

"The Plaintiff in this case has asserted that news providers do not enjoy First Amendment protection when they distribute their programming over a cable television system," it said. "That radical proposition is plainly wrong: The First Amendment unquestionably protects “[c]able programmers," including Fox News.

John Eggerton

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.