Anti-First Amendment Lawsuit Against Fox News Thrown Out of Court

A Washington state judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a left-wing activist group claiming Fox News isn’t entitled to First Amendment protections on coverage with which the group disagrees.

A group known as the Washington League for Increased Transparency and Ethics (WASHLITE) filed suit in April claiming Fox News opinion hosts were spreading misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic, and sought an injunction of coverage under Washington’s Consumer Protection Act.

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Fox News filed a motion to dismiss on the grounds that there is a distinction in its coverage between its news division, which emphasized the coronavirus threat, and the opinions of its commentators, who were expressing recommendations for policy. In either case, the network argued it was protected by the First Amendment’s rights to free speech and a free press.

WASHLITE countered that First Amendment protections didn’t extend to Fox News because they were a cable channel and not a newspaper, and that the editorial freedoms they were claiming were actually enjoyed by cable providers such as Comcast or Spectrum that carried the channel (WASHLITE’s amended case against Fox News dropped cable carriers as parties to the action).

The Internet and Television Association, which represents cable programmers and distributors, filed an amicus brief in support of Fox News in the case.

As part of its motion, Fox News listed numerous instances of other press outlets downplaying the significance of COVID-19 as it began to spread out of China in December, January and February, though none of the other outlets were targeted by WASHLITE. Fox News frequently draws the ire of left-wing activists for providing a larger degree of conservative access to its coverage than other news outlets.

Following a hearing May 21, Superior Court Judge Brian McDonald May 27 granted Fox News’ motion to dismiss, citing that the First Amendment protections afforded to cable news channels as press outlets are clearly established and that WASHLITE’s claims were baseless.

“Using a false portrayal of Fox News Channel’s commentary, WASHLITE attempted to silence a national news organization to settle a partisan grievance. This was not only wrong, but contemptuous of the foundation of free speech and we are both pleased the court dismissed this frivolous case and grateful to the First Amendment community that rallied to our side,” Fox News stated following the dismissal.

WASHLITE has vowed to appeal.

Fox News Digital Eyes Double-Digit Viewing Increase in April

Fox News Digital said it finished the month of April with double-digit viewership increases, including multiplatform views (up 26% from April 2019), multiplatform minutes (19%) and multiplatform unique visitors (20%).

Fox attributed the increase to viewer interest in the coronavirus pandemic.

The network, citing ComScore data, also reported new highs in multiplatform unique visitors (121.5 million), total multiplatform views (1.9 billion) and total multiplatform minutes (4.5 billion minutes). This April marked the second-highest month of multiplatform unique visitors, coming only behind March 2020, as well as notched the network’s fifth consecutive month with over 100 million multiplatform unique visitors.

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Fox said its branded mobile news app topped CNN’s app in viewers with 8.7 million unique visitors compared to 7.3 million for CNN.

Multi-Platform Total Minutes
Fox News Digital – 4.5 billion (up 19%)
CNN.com – 5.4 billion (up 90%)

Multi-Platform Total Views
Fox News Digital – 1.97 billion (up 26%)
CNN.com – 2.93 billion (up 100%)

Multi-Platform Unique Visitors
FOX News Digital – 121.5 million (up 20%)
CNN.com – 165 million (up 33%)

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Fox Nation SVOD Service Available to Cox Contour Customers

Fox Nation, the on-demand, subscription streaming service complement to the Fox News Channel, is now available to Cox Contour TV customers and to Internet-only customers with the Contour Stream Player.

Cox customers will now have access to Fox Nation through Cox on Demand on Contour, and across devices via the Contour app and portal, as well as the Contour Stream Player, Cox’s service for Internet-only customers. Contour customers can add Fox Nation to their service for $5.99 per month. Additionally, Contour and Contour Stream Player customers with a voice remote can say “Fox Nation” directly into the remote to launch the service.

“Since first launching our platform in 2018, the demand for Fox Nation has only grown and we look forward to further expanding and introducing Cox’s customers to this service,” said John Finley, EVP of development for Fox Nation.

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Fox Nation’s content includes historical documentaries, long and short-form programming, extended versions of Fox News Channel’s most popular shows, investigative series from Fox News personalities and specials. Original programming includes series such as “PARK’D,” helmed by travel and lifestyle host Abby Hornacek, who takes viewers behind-the-scenes of the country’s landmarks; “The Pursuit!,” hosted by country music star John Rich featuring interviews with fellow musical guests; “Lara Logan Has No Agenda,” hosted by the former “60 Minutes” anchor and war correspondent; and longtime legal analyst and former prosecutor Nancy Grace’s daily crime stories program.

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Fox Nation is available on iOS and Android devices as well as Apple TV, Web, Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast, Roku, Xbox One and Comcast Xfinity platforms.

Free Speech in a Pandemic: Fox News Fighting Misinformation Lawsuit

During the coronavirus spread there has been no shortage of politics in the media when it comes to reporting the pandemic. President Trump has used his daily COVID-19 press briefings at times as a bully pulpit to advocate his political agenda as much as advocating washing hands and wearing scarves in the absence of face masks.

Fox News, which Trump follows intently, is now facing litigation from left-leaning political groups claiming that it misled the public from the beginning on the severity of the coronavirus — a pandemic that through April 15 has generated 644,000 cases in the U.S., including 28,500 deaths.

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Fox News Media operates the Fox News Channel, among others, including direct-to-consumer subscription streaming service Fox Nation. FNC has been the most-watched television news channel for more than 18 consecutive years.

A lawsuit was filed earlier this month by the left-wing Washington League for Increased Transparency and Ethics (WASHLITE), a group in Washington state hoping to impose a judicial gag order on Fox opinion commentary regarding the coronavirus outbreak. Trump, reportedly, has generated much of his initial response to the virus, from Fox News.

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Fox lawyers April 15 argued in a court motion (and press release) that the suit is frivolous because the statements at issue are core political speech on matters of public concern. Fox contends the First Amendment does not permit censoring this type of speech.

Fox is calling on the court to dismiss as a matter of law the plaintiff’s  “misguided” attempt to use litigation to stifle Fox News commentary or the viewpoints of its hosts.

“It’s Constitutional Law 101: the First Amendment protects our right to speak openly and freely on matters of public concern,” Fox News Media General Counsel and EVP Lily Fu Claffee said in a statement. “If WASHLITE doesn’t like what we said, it can criticize us, but it can’t silence us with a lawsuit.”

Fox’s New’s motion includes a 61-page appendix listing what it calls inaccuracies in the WASHLITE complaint, with transcripts showing Fox News Channel hosts warning about the severity of the virus, while also pointing out commentary downplaying the outbreak from multiple media outlets, including CNN and the New York Times.

‘Bombshell’ Strikes Home

The dynamic trio of Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie powers Bombshell.

The three acclaimed actresses are at the center of the Oscar-lauded film based on the real story of ambitious, strong women who anchored one of America’s most powerful news networks, Fox News, becoming headlines themselves when they risked everything to stand up to the man who made them famous, Roger Ailes.

Available now on digital, Blu-ray combo pack and DVD from Lionsgate, Bombshell earned Academy Award nominations for Best Actress (Charlize Theron) and Best Supporting Actress (Margot Robbie), and won the Oscar for Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling.

Theron, who also produced the film, notes in the disc extras it was “a great opportunity for a lot of talented women to come together and tell an important story.”

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“It was lovely to be able to join forces with these women and hopefully inspire people to say, ‘I don’t need to put up with this,’” adds Kidman.

Charlize Theron as Megyn Kelly

Bombshell is a candid exploration of the sexual harassment scandal that brought down the powerful Ailes. Theron plays Megyn Kelly, an anchor at the height of her power. Kidman is Gretchen Carlson, the former anchor who sues Ailes, bringing the harassment to light. Robbie plays up-and-comer Kayla Pospisil, a fictional, composite character based on other individuals.

The three women appear in only one scene together, which proved to be one of the most striking in the movie. A scene in which they ride in the same elevator with little dialog was not originally in the script, but it turned out to be so impactful that it provided a key image for the film’s teaser.

Nicole Kidman as Gretchen Carlson

“It was great to be able to have a scene with almost no dialog that still says a lot,” Kidman says in the extras.

“We don’t say anything to each other, and I think that’s the whole point of the scene, that we do not reach out and in a way our problems are unresolved because we have isolated ourselves,” adds Robbie.

“Charlize, Nicole and Margo are, well, a dream team,” says John Lithgow in the disc extras. Lithgow plays Ailes and made a point of telling the women in the film he was going to have to be nasty to them in the role.

John Lithgow as Roger Ailes

Despite playing the villain, Lithgow brought complexity to the character.

“He never shied away from the fact that this guy Roger Ailes was incredibly charismatic and that people loved him,” Theron notes.

“What I look for always in playing a bad guy is a sort of core of insecurity, what in the world makes them that way, how do you show the fact that he may do bad things, but he hates doing them,” Lithgow explains in the extras.

One of the most emotionally wrenching scenes in the film takes place between Lithgow as Ailes and Robbie’s Kayla as she slowly becomes aware of his abusive intentions.

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“The man is in the grips of his own compulsions, and he hates himself for it,” Lithgow says in the extras.

While the actors had a firm grip on the inner life of their characters, transforming them to resemble their real-life counterparts also added to the drama, winning makeup and hairstyling creators Kazu Hiro, Anne Morgan and Vivian Baker an Academy Award.

Detailed in the disc extras are the hours of work with prosthetics and makeup that it took to turn the actors into well-known personalities. Kidman wore chin and body enhancements as Carlson, and Lithgow wore six prosthetics and a body suit as Ailes. Theron, who listened to hours of interviews to mimic Kelly’s voice, wore nose plugs and cheek, eyelid, chin and nose prosthetics to replicate Kelly’s look.

“The look match was really important to her,” says director Jay Roach in the extras, adding she wanted to see herself in the mirror and not recognize herself.

“We ended up so close to Megan’s features,” Theron adds, crediting Hiro’s artistry.

An ensemble of accomplished actors, including Kate McKinnon, Connie Britton, Malcolm McDowell (as media tycoon Rupert Murdoch) and Allison Janney also joined in crafting a complicated but sharply told story that filmmakers hope will start a conversation — without preaching.

“I personally don’t want to go and watch a movie that I feel is preaching to me,” says Theron, who credits Roach’s comedy background in helping to bring realism to the film.

“You feel like you’re really there in the room with those people,” she says.

Blu-ray/DVD/Digital special features include the “No Easy Truths: The Making of Bombshell” seven-part documentary:

  • “Convergence: Genesis of the Film” Featurette
  • “Quid Pro Quo: Charlize, Nicole, Margot, John” Featurette
  • “Human Dynamics: The Ensemble Cast” Featurette
  • “Breaking the Fourth Wall: Visual Design” Featurette
  • “Layer by Layer: Makeup, Hair & Clothing” Featurette
  • “A Unique Skill Set: Jay Roach” Featurette
  • “Catalyst for Change: Parting Thoughts” Featurette

CNN Records Largest Digital Audience In History In January

WarnerMedia Entertainment’s CNN news division began 2020 with the highest audience numbers in its history for both total audience and mobile audience, outpacing all competitors for nearly four years for U.S. unique visitors, nearly five years for video and nine months for global unique visitors.

Citing ComScore monthly data, CNN’s digital audience in the U.S. in January was a record 148 million unique visitors and a record 128 million mobile unique visitors. CNN held the position as the #1 global digital news brand in December 2019.

Adobe Analytics data revealed record CNN global traffic in January as well, and underscored the brand’s strength in the U.S., ranking again as the #1 digital news outlet in January in the key categories of multi-platform unique visitors, mobile unique visitors, multi-platform video starts (Dec. 2019), millennial unique visitors and political unique visitors.

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CNN saw a larger global audience than any other news platform in the world in December 2019, with 165 million unique multi-platform visitors, 20 million more than second place BBC and 37 million more than third place The Daily Mail. Other top sites included: Yahoo News – 123 million unique visitors; The New York Times – 118 million unique visitors; FoxNews.com – 104 million unique visitors.

CNN posted 148 million unique multi-platform visitors domestically in January. This was 34 million more unique visitors than second-place Fox News and 41 million more unique visitors than The New York Times.

Others included NBCNews.com – 93.3 million unique visitors; WashingtonPost.com – 92.6 million unique visitors; DailyMail.co.uk – 89 million unique visitors.

CNN’s mobile audience continued to top 100 million unique visitors in January with an all-time record of 128 million mobile unique visitors – 33 million more mobile unique visitors than both second-place Fox News and third-place The New York Times. Others included Dailymail.co.uk – 84 million unique visitors; NBCNews.com – 83 million unique visitors; WashingtonPost.com – 79 million unique visitors.

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CNN again ranked as #1 in digital video with 522 million multi-platform video starts, generating 210 million more video starts than its nearest competitor Fox News in December 2019. Others included Yahoo News – 290 million video starts; ABCNews.com Sites – 153 million video starts; MSN News – 123 million video starts; MSNBC TV – 116 million video starts.

CNN saw a larger audience of millennial multi-platform unique visitors (between the ages of 18-34) than any other competitor in January with 42 million. Others included The New York Times – 30 million millennial unique visitors; Dailymail.co.uk – 28 million millennial unique visitors; WashingtonPost.com – 27 million millennial unique visitors; NBCNews.com – 24 million millennial unique visitors, and FoxNews.com – 23 million millennial unique visitors.

CNN continued to reign on top of all political news sources at the start of Election Year 2020, as the #1 ranked political news destination in January with 58 million multi-platform unique visitors, 50 million mobile unique visitors and 74 million multi-platform video starts (December 2019) .

January was the second biggest month ever for CNN politics mobile audience behind December 2019. CNN has remained the #1 online political news outlet since March 2015 when the first person declared their candidacy for president in the 2016 race.

Other top political platforms include TheHill.com –34 million unique visitors; Politico.com – 31 million unique visitors; Fox News Politics– 24 million unique visitors; MSNBC TV – 15.4 million unique visitors and NBCNews.com Politics – 14.7 million unique visitors. 

Oscar-Nominated ‘Bombshell’ Due on Digital Feb. 25, Disc March 10 From Lionsgate

The Oscar-nominated Bombshell is coming home on digital Feb. 25 and on Blu-ray combo pack and DVD March 10 from Lionsgate.

The film has been nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Actress (Charlize Theron), Best Supporting Actress (Margot Robbie), and Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling (Kazu Hiro, Anne Morgan and Vivian Baker).

Theron, Nicole Kidman, Robbie and John Lithgow (as Roger Ailes) star in the film based on the real story of three ambitious, strong women who anchored one of America’s most powerful news networks, Fox News, becoming headlines themselves when they risked everything to stand up to the man who made them famous.

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The film also stars Kate McKinnon, Connie Britton, Malcolm McDowell and Allison Janney.

Disc bonus features include a seven-part making-of documentary featuring interviews with the cast and crew.

CNN Launching Digital News Service

WarnerMedia’s CNN property is reportedly readying a standalone subscription based news service that would target the news organization’s online  audience — and also pay third-party news sources.

The move comes after Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. subsidiary announced plans to launch Knewz.com, which seeks to aggregate third-party and original content.

As more people seek out world and local news online, TV news departments and print publications are melding operations internally with over-the-top video platforms to compete with social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube.

While CNN lags behind Fox News in monthly pay-TV viewership, it bests the Rupert Murdoch property online with 130,000 more unique eyeballs per month than Fox, according to comScore.

“In the same way that entertainment companies don’t want to cede ground to the streaming platforms, why should we cede the ground of journalism to the technology platforms,” CNN digital chief Andrew Morse told The Information.

‘Fox Nation’ SVOD Service Goes Live

Fox Nation, the $5.99 subscription streaming video service, officially launches today (Nov. 27) offering “Fox & Friends”-style conservative commentary, opinions, documentaries and related content (“Cooking with Steve Doocy,” a Fox News host) for streamers who like their entertainment red-state.

New programs include “First Thoughts” and “Final Thoughts” featuring online siren Tomi Lahren, and “Un-PC” talk show, co-hosted by Britt McHenry, the former ESPN reporter infamously suspended in 2015 after an ugly video of her dressing down a towing-lot attendant went viral.

John Finley, SVP of development and production at Fox News, characterizes Fox Nation as a mixture of Netflix and Facebook Live, featuring similar content options — but geared toward the Fox News demographic that helped put Donald Trump in the White House.

“We have fans, other news organizations simply have viewers,” Finley told The New York Times.

Fox News has become basic cable’s most-watched network averaging 1.4 million viewers during the day; 2.4 million during 8-11 p.m. prime time hours, according to Nielsen — a ratings reality the network has championed for more than two years.

“It’s another way to service and provide content to our most dedicated fans,” Finley said. “We can give them an infinite amount of content.”

But not 24/7.

Fox Nation, which will feature many Fox News on-air talent, including Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham (but reportedly not Chris Wallace and Shepard Smith), will cease all live programming at 7 p.m. — the time when Fox News begins its prime-time lineup.

Indeed, Fox News remains a revenue machine for corporate parent 21st Century Fox, generating more than $1 billion annually in ad-sales. The unit was not part of Fox’s $71 billion 20th Century Film Corp.’s sale to The Walt Disney Co.

 

Fox Nation SVOD Service Launching Nov. 27

Fox Nation, the politically conservative-themed subscription streaming video-on-demand service coming from 21st Century Fox, is launching after the midterm elections on Nov. 27, priced at $5.99 monthly or $64.99 annually.

Starting Oct. 28, consumers can sign up for special pre-release pricing at www.foxnation.com.

Programming – featuring long and short-form content, includes documentaries on Judge Robert Bork’s failed confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1987 and Fox News legal analyst Gregg Jarrett’s The Russia Hoax, which claims the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election is really an attempt to “clear Hillary Clinton and frame Donald Trump.”

“Hannity’s America: The Clarence Thomas Story” details the highly contentious confirmation hearings in 1991 and his book My Grandfather’s Son, about his own background and the events that brought him to the Supreme Court.

“What Made America Great,” hosted by “Fox & Friends” co-host Brian Kilmeade, aims to reveal the hidden history and ongoing controversies behind some of America’s most iconic locations, including The Alamo, Fraunces Tavern, Fort Jefferson and Mount Rushmore.

Finally, conservative cheerleader Tomi Lahren’s online segment, “Final Thoughts,” will move to Fox Nation.