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Lawsuits

How Stations in NYC and DC Reported on the Aereo Supreme Court Arguments

Stations around the country reported last night on the Aereo Supreme Court case, which has the potential to drastically upend the television industry. Broadcasters — including NBC, ABC, Fox, CBS and Univision, which own many local stations — faced off against the streaming TV service yesterday in oral arguments in front of the Supreme Court. Here’s how stations in New York City and Washington, D.C. reported on the case.

In New York, CBS-owned WCBS reported on the case during the 5 p.m. newscast without disclosing that its parent company is involved in the lawsuit. The report included a brief explanation of Aereo’s service and a soundbite from Neal Katyal, a legal advisor to the broadcast networks. “Under copyright law, cable and satellite companies pay networks billions to deliver programming to customers,” anchor Maurice DuBois said. “Aereo does this without paying anybody.”

NBC-owned WNBC reported on Supreme Court hearings during the noon newscast and informed viewers of NBC’s involvement in the case. “The Supreme Court is hearing a challenge today to a revolutionary TV viewing app called Aereo. Broadcasters, including NBC, argue the online rebroadcast of over-the-air television is a violation of copyright,” anchor Rob Schmitt said. “They believe Aereo should pay a fee just as cable companies do. Aereo argues it’s just acting as an antennae for viewers.”

CW affiliate WPIX presented a comprehensive package about Aereo, including an explanation of the service and the legal issues in the case, as well as soundbites from lawyers representing both sides, on its 10 p.m. newscast. WPIX’s owner, Tribune Broadcasting, is not involved in the lawsuit.

ABC-owned WABC and Fox-owned WNYW made no mention of the case, according to a search of TVEyes.

As for stations in Washington, D.C.: Read more

Supreme Court ‘Conflicted’ Over Aereo Case

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter hearing oral arguments from both sides this morning, the Supreme Court justices “appeared unsure” how to rule in the Aereo case, Reuters reports:

The nine justices gave little sign of support for Aereo during the one-hour oral argument, but the bigger concern appeared to be the possible broader implications of a ruling against the company.

Several justices appeared troubled about a ruling that would deal a blow to increasingly popular cloud computing services in which personal files — including TV shows and music — are stored remotely on the Internet on servers from companies such as Google Inc, Microsoft Corp, DropBox Inc and Box Inc.

Justice Stephen Breyer told the networks’ attorney, Paul Clement, that his legal argument “makes me nervous about taking your preferred route.”

The issue of whether Aereo should be considered a cable company was also raised, according to Re/code: Read more

Little Rock Sports Anchor Sues Gannett for Discrimination

edwards kthvMark C. Nelson, known on-air as Mark Edwards, is suing Gannett Co. and Little Rock CBS affiliate KTHV for discrimination.

According to the lawsuit posted on Courthouse News Service, Gannett, “has a corporate custom, policy, pattern, practice and procedure of not promoting African-Americans to director and leadership positions and utilizing a ‘one-and-done policy’ that disparately impacts African-American employed within the company.”

Edwards says Gannett manipulated focus groups and used “other means and methods” to “achieve its discriminatory goals and objectives.”

Edwards’ bio has been removed from the KTHV website.

The sports anchor said he started at KTHV in 2003 editing and doing production as the “number three” sports guy. When he had the opportunity to leave for an on-air job in Cleveland, Edwards said GM Larry Audas asked him to stay and promised him a promotion and that he would be on a “fast track” to the sports director position.

The complaint continues: “After remaining in employment for several years with the defendant, in approximately May 2012, Wes Moore, a white sports anchor and director, left Channel 11. Plaintiff was in an optimum position to take over as the anchor and sports director with the attendant advertising, marketing, promotion and raise-in-pay that accompanies such advancement within the company. However, rather than offer this opportunity to plaintiff, instead, Channel 11 hired a white male with less sports broadcasting experience from another station in July-August of 2012. For reasons never explained to plaintiff, defendant did not provide plaintiff with an offer to be promoted, marketed or further advanced with the defendant as sports director, or anchor as was promised and represented by him.” Read more

Aereo CEO: ‘The Technology We’ve Built is Tremendously Valuable to a lot of People’

With five days to go until the Supreme Court takes up the Aereo case, CEO Chet Kanojia sat down for a wide-ranging interview with Yahoo’s Katie Couric.

“It would be a tragic outcome for a company that had the courage to step up,” Kanojia said about the potential of a Supreme Court loss. “But it is what it is. I think we’ll figure out something or if not, if there’s no viable business, then we’ll probably go out of business. I do know that the technology we’ve built is tremendously valuable to a lot of people.” Watch:

Kanojia also talked about Aereo’s target audience: “People who are consuming a lot of content online, renting movies and Netflix and things like that — what they miss is access to broadcast TV, which happens to be morning television, which happens to be news, which happens to be big reality show events, watercooler type things. And for that, they’re tied to the bundle. Which is the big fight in the Aereo debate.” Watch after the jump. Read more

Minnesota Man Sues WCCO For Defamation

wcco setA Minnesota man has filed a defamation lawsuit against WCCO, the CBS-owned station in Minneapolis, for a series of reports identifying him as the killer of a police officer.

Although Ryan Larson was arrested and jailed for five days in connection with the officer’s death, he was never charged. Another man who was a person of interest in the case later died by suicide, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

Larson, who now lives in Long Prairie, contends two tweets by a radio reporter and separate news reports wrongfully pointed to him as the cop’s killer and said he was expected to be charged.

According to the lawsuit, reporter Chris Simon tweeted on Nov. 30: “Chief Phil Jones of Cold Spring PD salutes slain officer Tom Decker Shot by welfare suspect Ryan Larson.” A second tweet stated: “The BCAs Drew Evans confirms officer Decker was ‘ambushed’ when shot twice and killed by Ryan Larson.” Read more

Realtor Sues KYW For Defamation, Emotional Distress

kyw_304A Pennsylvania realtor is suing KYW for emotional distress and defamation, claiming the Philadelphia station aired a “preposterous and knowingly false story” about her, the Philadelphia Daily News reports.

The realtor, Andrea Straub, and her husband, who she is now separated from, were cited with disorderly conduct and harassment after police found surveillance video allegedly showing the pair throwing dead animals on a neighbor’s property. KYW aired the video in a report on the citation; the charges against Straub were later dropped.

The suit names anchor Chris May, reporter Walt Hunter, news director Susan Schiller and account executive Kim Papay as defendants. Straub says she lost her job and was “effectively run out of town” after the story aired: Read more

Aereo CEO: ‘We Are Confident in the Merits of Our Position’

aereoWith less than two months to go before the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in the Aereo case, CEO and founder Chet Kanojia talks to TIME’s Sam Gustin. Among other things, Kanojia addresses the broadcasters’ threat that they will pull over-the-air signals and move their most popular programs to cable if Aereo prevails:

I don’t believe that to be a serious threat, just from a business perspective. According to the NAB [National Association of Broadcasters], there are nearly 60 million people who are using over-the-air access. So the networks would have to make a business decision that they are willing to cut off 60 million people.

[...] Most importantly, they would essentially be killing local broadcasting because local broadcasting depends on network television to bring it an audience. So from a business imperative, a business rationale, and their mandate to program in the public interest, they would be running afoul of all of these things, so I don’t find that argument persuasive at all.

It would be inappropriate for me to forecast anything or presume anything, but we think the logic that we have laid out is very compelling, sound logic. We are confident in the merits of our position and we are eager to find out what the Supreme Court thinks.

Utah Judge Grants Broadcasters Preliminary Injunction Against Aereo

aereoThe broadcast networks have been handed a victory in the ongoing legal battle with streaming television service Aereo, according to the Hollywood Reporter:

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball ruled that Fox Broadcasting was likely to succeed on the merits of its copyright claim and be irreparably harmed by Aereo. As a result, the judge has granted a preliminary injunction against Aereo’s service that captures over-the-air TV signals and transmits them to subscribers’ digital devices.

The judge also has granted a stay pending the Supreme Court’s decision. The high court is scheduled to hear the case on April 22.

“This is a significant win for both broadcasters and content owners,” says Fox in a statement. “We are very pleased that the U.S. District Court in Utah has granted our request for a preliminary injunction. This injunction will prohibit Aereo from stealing our broadcast signal in Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, Wyoming and Montana.”

Portland Reporter Suing Sinclair for Failing to Pay Overtime

sinclair_304Attorneys for former KATU investigative reporter Thom Jensen have filed a suit seeking class action status for a federal lawsuit saying Sinclair Broadcasting Group failed to pay overtime to news reporters at its stations in Oregon, reports The Register-Guard.

Jensen, who worked at the Portland ABC affiliate from October 2006 until December 2012, alleges he regularly worked between five to 10 hours of overtime each week without getting paid for it.

The lawsuit would include people who worked at KATU in Portland as well as those who worked at KMTR and KVAL in Eugene. Fisher Communications, which owned the stations before Sinclair announced it was buying the station group in April, is also named in the suit.

Also, the lawsuit claims Jensen has post-traumatic stress disorder and that the Portland station refused to accommodate his disability. The suit alleges Jensen was fired because of that disability and in retaliation for complaining about not receiving overtime pay.

Jensen claims the company created a stressful and difficult working environment that worsened his illness. Read more

Former KDVR Contributor Sues Station, Says He Was Fired Because of Bankruptcy

cd22martinoFormer KDVR contributor Tom Martino is suing the Denver FOX affiliate because he says the station let him go when he filed for bankruptcy in 2011.

Martino, known as “The Troubleshooter,” appeared in regular segments on KDVR as well as a Denver AM radio station.

His lawsuit alleges the station let him go after it learned he was filing for bankruptcy. Martino claims the move violated federal protections.

Martino is no stranger to the headlines lately. He was arrested in December for allegedly punching his wife in the face while the two were waiting a a stoplight.

 The Denver Post reports KDVR said it didn’t renew his contract because ‘it wanted a host with “less personality.’ That Martino filed for bankruptcy had nothing to do with it, according to the case filed in U.S. District Court in Denver.” Read more

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