FNC’s ‘Fair & Balanced’ Under Attack

Jul 19, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Fox News Channel’s slogan, “Fair & Balanced,” is under legal attack from two directions on the left of the conservative cable news operation.

MoveOn.org and Common Cause on Monday asked the Federal Trade Commission’s Division of Enforcement to order Fox New Channel to stop using the slogan, which Fox News registered as a trademark in December 1998, because it is “false and deceptive” advertising of the cable channel’s content and political tilt.

Meanwhile, the nonprofit Independent Media Institute, which publishes an online magazine at Alternet.org, announced Monday that it has had pending since December 2003 a petition asking the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to cancel Fox News’ right to the trademark.

IMI President Don Hazen said that his organization was inspired to take the move by comments U.S. District Court Judge Denny Chin made last August when denying Fox News’ accusation that Al Franken had violated Fox’s trademark by titling his book “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right.” The judge said Fox’s suit was “wholly without merit.”

But IMI just barely beat the five-year deadline for contesting Fox’s right to trademark its slogan. The IMI filing makes three main points: the phrase is merely descriptive, its use by others is so prevalent that it is generic and it is so “notoriously misdescriptive” of Fox’s presentation of news as to be impermissible.

“Why does Fox own that term?” asked Don Hazen, executive editor of Alternet.org, “We should be able to use it as well.”