Owners of major legacy outlets came together Monday evening and filed an amicus brief in support of Fox News’ motion to dismiss a lawsuit against them by the activist nonprofit group WASHLITE.
The amicus brief, which translates to “friend of the court,” was filed by The Internet & Television Association (NCTA) and The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP). The two media entities argued against WASHLITE’s claim that “cable programmers do not have First Amendment rights.”
“Since the advent of cable television, the Supreme Court has explained time and again that cable programmers are protected by the First Amendment,” the amicus brief reads, according to a copy obtained by the Daily Caller. (RELATED: Nonprofit Suing Fox News Over Its Coronavirus Reporting Requests Judge Be Removed)
NCTA is made up of the owners of major media companies. Members include Warner Media, which owns CNN and HLN, Comcast, which owns NBC News, MSNBC, CNBC and Telemundo and A&E, which owns Vice TV.
Similarly, RCFP includes many well-known reporters and executives from publications such as ABC News, CNN, the Associated Press, The Washington Post, The New York Times and others.
WASHLITE filed a lawsuit against Fox News on April 2 over the network’s coverage of the novel coronavirus. The lawsuit requests an injunction to prohibit Fox from “interfering with reasonable and necessary measures to contain the virus by publishing further false and deceptive content.”
Monday evening’s brief notes that “the issues presented in this case are of substantial constitutional significance” and focuses on WASHLITE’s First Amendment claim against Fox News. The amicus brief reads that WASHLITE’s claim “raised for the first time the argument that cable news providers somehow lack First Amendment protection.”
“That radical proposition is plainly wrong: The First Amendment unquestionably protects ‘[c]able programmers,'” NCTA and RCFP wrote.
A “friend of the court” filing allows those who have an interest in how an issue will be resolved to submit their opinion in the form of a brief. Monday’s brief argues that Fox News “is entitled to … protection in this case,” noting that WASHLITE argued a case that allowed cable operators to censor “indecent programming.”
WASHLITE claimed that this could include the government censoring news, according to Law & Crime. NCTA and RCFP said that Fox News is “a cable news programmer” and therefore has protection under the First Amendment.
“NCTA and the Reporters Committee frequently participate in litigation in courts throughout the country, including in particular to ensure that their members’ First Amendment protections are upheld,” the brief adds.
“They cannot hide that their assault on the First Amendment rests on a false portrayal of what Fox’s commentary actually said. Fortunately, in all events, the Constitution protects Fox’s speech even accepting the Complaint’s distortions.”
— Fox Corp Response (@FoxResponse) May 18, 2020
Fox News filed a reply in support of the motion to dismiss the First Amendment complaint earlier Monday. The network asserted that WASHLITE’s First Amendment argument “is wrong” and noted that it would allow the government to censor cable networks.
“Plaintiffs’ position would allow the government to censor not just Fox News but also CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, Bloomberg, ESPN, and every other cable network. That is as dangerous as it is frivolous,” Fox News wrote in its reply.