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Marianne Paskowski



Did Fox Hinder 1st Amendment by Caving on OJ?

November 20, 2006 6:06 PM

This afternoon, News Corp.-owned Fox canceled its two-part special featuring OJ Simpson, “If I Did It,” which was to air Nov. 27 and 29. The show would have promoted the subsequent Nov. 30 release of his book by another News Corp. division, Regan Book.

There’s been a lot of public backlash, here, and everywhere about the ethics of this project. Fox axed the project after a dozen or so Fox affiliates refused to air the special, and after sister network Fox News Channel’s anchor Bill O’Reilly publicly chimed in, threatening to boycott products sold by any advertisers who sponsored the project. Fox News correspondent Geraldo Rivera was equally adamant about the sensibilities involved here.

After all of this hubris on the part of News Corp., two questions remain: Was this really just a publicity stunt on the part of its Fox broadcast network? I doubt it. Fox, like P.T. Barnum, believed in never underestimating the intelligence of the masses. Wrong this time!

The second question is, and it came up in my previous blog: Should Fox stick to its guns and air and publish the OJ stuff in the name of the First Amendment? Rembember, OJ was acquitted. The glove did not fit.

That’s a dicier question, especially today, when we see some of our long assumed and now taken for granted liberties now under assail with the Patriot Act. I earlier asked if Fox should air this project. Now I’m asking if News Corp., the parent company, in the end, further curtail our rights to Free Speech? I’m not sure, would appreciate the feedback.

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Comments (10)

b:

Well - I guess justice was served. It was pretty gross to see a News Corp owned publisher, News Corp owned TV affiliates, and even the News Corp owned NY Post all working together to push this disgusting project.

However, it was nice to see Fox affiliates and even the normally slimey Fox News on-air talent speak out against their owner in a fine example of free speech.

As far as the network's right to air and Regan's right to publish...they would and should be protected to do so...even if we don't agree with it.

Let's be honest, who would watch? I must admit...I'd at least DVR it...

-b

Joe Mortensen:

First of all, Marianne, Fox could not have violated "our" First Amendment rights. You, I, and your other readers weren't the ones planning to speak. As for O.J., Fox didn't violate his 1st Amendment rights either. Fox simply yanked O.J.'s commercially inspired platform. O.J. is free to tell his tale wherever he wishes.

Fox might have exhibited simple good taste. Fine. It would have been better if Fox had instead declared that it's attempting to rewite the contract with O.J. to ensure that the victims' families to whom O.J. owes wrongful death damages get first cut from the proceeds. I think even Fox's harshest critics would pat Rupert on the back had he done that.

As I remember the famous quotation, it was H.L. Mencken who wrote: "No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public." Had Fox not relented for reasons of common decency, it would have once again proved the wisdom of those words.

Be well, Blondie

Joe

Marianne Paskowski:

hi b,

Like your point:: That News Corp.did permit its Fox News Channel on-air team speak out against this hydra-headed , sensationalistic project between two of its divisions, Regan Books and Fox Broadcast, and then yet another division, Fox News, became entangled in the embroglio. That's Free Speech at its best. But every time a network or a publisher backs down on issues, it really does endanger everyone, remember McCarthy, I don't really, I was just a kid.

Framkly, I'm now thinking this was a publicity stunt run amuck. Fox is in the ratings hole this season, but the net doesn't have anything great to offer until Jan., when "24" and "American Idol" return. Keep on coming back, appreciate your insight.
Marianne

Marianne Paskowski:

Yo Joe,
Well, we're going to need David Eppenstein, the DA from Chicago, to weigh in, again, here, on the law regarding freedom of speech, and how it pertains to OJ's situation and that of Fox.

Yes, Joe, I'm a "blondie," but I've raised a serious question, and now getting serious answers back, which I appreciate. And thanks for yours, and do come back to the blog. The dialogue is important. I welcome all views.

And while I'm at at it, a snipe to my editors at TVweek.com, in the quest of free speech. Could you possibly make this type size any smaller? I can't see my own typos, and apparently you can't either. Nor can my readers.

Happy Thanksgiving to All,
Marianne

Joan:

I always thought the Bill of Rights was about what the government couldn't do. We are most certainly allowed to vote with our pocket books and threaten to avoid a network that puts on offensive material. Give me a wardrobe malfunction anyday. Now congress getting involved in that incident is the Free Speech issue. Hooray for any OJ free network.

Marianne Paskowski:

Hi Joan,
What an interestimg point you alluded to, the Super Bowl wardrobe incident. Maybe, Fox was scared off, also fearing finanicial penalties from the FCC. But I doubt that. In the end, I just think this was a sweeps stunt gone awry. Obviously, News Corp, Fox's parent , did not anticipate the negative backlash, and withdrew the primte-time TV offering, and the publication of OJ's book. Having said that, I predict Fox will bring OJ back to the tube in some way. OJ will probably make millions on why his show and book were nixed. Ssorry, but I am very jaded.
Marianne

David Eppenstein:

Well Marianne first I was a criminal defense attorney and not a DA, that would have been a waste of an education; second, Joe and Joan are both correct. "Our rights"? The Free Speech rights involved here belonged to OJ and Fox and not us. "Our rights" were exercised in wails of outrage that you and your media cohorts happily incited and reported and now you are unhappy. Why? You were critical of Fox's endeavors to publish and promote OJ's story and now that Fox has listened to the voice of our free enterprise marketplace you are again raising criticism. Could it be that all you want is to incite discontent and controversy? You should be careful about that somebody might think that you're a lawyer. However, if this be your stock and trade then why not write OJ a letter. Now that his book deal is dead he might want to open a day care center named after his late wife. Now that should give you something to rant about.

Marianne Paskowski:

Hi David,
Please accept my apologies for mischaracterizing your former profession. I'm starting to feel like I'm beating a dead horse with this OJ story. And yes I did want to create a dialogue concerning all of the strange developments
Marianne

Arthur Greenwald:

Marianne,
While I believe that the First Amendment absolutely protects unpopular ideas, it's difficult to see what actual information or opinon is being suppressed by News Corp's belated decision to kill the O.J. book and TV specials. From the outset, this distasteful project has been framed as speculation not fact. It was therefore conceived, and obviously promoted, to shock and tittilate. Rather than your allusion to the Patriot Act, it might be more pertinent to ask whether the Bush FCC would have fined all the FOX stations who carried a program that was deliberately offensive to most community standards. Compared to O.J. lecturing on the best way to murder a spouse, accidentally baring Janet Jackson's breast was a public service!
Arthur

Marianne Paskowski:

Hi Arthur,
Thanks for your post, and the interesting point you raised about the FCC. Maybe that's why Fox pulled the whole thing. Someday we will know once the dust settles.
Marianne

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