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Fox News Considered Suing Fox's "The Simpsons" 840

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the now-thats-seriously-funny dept.
ZeDanimal writes "The Simpsons' pooh-bah Matt Groening said in an NPR interview this week that the Fox News Channel considered legal action against the show for its parody of the station's news ticker. Broadcast, of course, by Fox Entertainment, the episode that raised the ire of the "Fair and Balanced" Fox News crew was Krusty For Congress, which mocked the perceived rightward-leanings of the channel with pseudo-news items such as "Do Democrats cause cancer?" and "Oil slicks found to keep seals young, supple" scrolling across the bottom of the screen. Guess the powers-that-be learned something from the Al Franken affair... or maybe they just feared getting into a popularity contest with the likes of the inanimate carbon rod."
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Fox News Considered Suing Fox's "The Simpsons"

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  • by seriv (698799) on Friday October 31, 2003 @12:05PM (#7358682)
    The news ticker belongs to one company? They all look the same to me. Anyway what is fox doing sueing one of their best shows?
    -Seriv
    • by poptones (653660) on Friday October 31, 2003 @12:13PM (#7358792) Journal
      It's the "fake news" part. Fox has the trademark on scrolling fake news reports at the bottom of the screen.

      Just watch any day of the week and see for yourself.

      It's true!

      Really...

    • Actually, they aren't sueing them, they "considered legal action". From the article,
      "We called their bluff because we didn't think Rupert Murdoch would pay for Fox to sue itself. So, we got away with it."
      And "While the lawsuit never materialized, Groening said some action was taken. "

      Pretty ignorant that theyd even consider sueing one fo their highest rating shows, but that just goes to show the ignorance of business logic for you and how lame it is that people can try to sue for whatever stupid thing they
      • It gets better (Score:5, Interesting)

        by JCCyC (179760) on Friday October 31, 2003 @01:39PM (#7359993) Journal
        From the Yahoo News link:
        "'Now Fox has a new rule that we can't do those little fake news crawls on the bottom of the screen in a cartoon because it might confuse the viewers into thinking it's real news,' he [Groening] said."

        What a bottomless pit of stupidity yes-men media is.
      • by Zeinfeld (263942) on Friday October 31, 2003 @02:16PM (#7360488) Homepage
        Actually, they aren't sueing them, they "considered legal action".

        The history here is that the head of Fox News, Roger Aisles is a long time Republican activist and partisan. He was put in charge of the news operation for the sole purpose of slanting the news to the extreme right.

        To get an idea of what really goes on at Fox take a read of the experiences of people who have worked there [salon.com]. Every day a note goes arround called 'The Memo' which contains the Republican party messages of the day. If you do not toe the line then you get fired. This is a bad thing since experience working at Fox news does not exactly enhance your resume when applying for a job with the real media.

        You can tell this is going on because Fox was even able to report Bush's claim that the Whitehouse did not order the 'Mission Accomplished' banner with a straight face.

        So yes it is completely believable that the executives running this bubble world outfit would have so little clue about the real world as to threaten to sue another Murdoch production - in this case a production that can if it choose defect at will to another station and a production that makes money rather than looses it hand over fist.

        Fox News does well in the ratings but very poorly with advertisers. The problem is that its core democratic of poor middle aged southern white racist men do not have much in the way of buying power. Advertisers much prefer to reach 18-35 audiences, gays, professionals, etc. in short pretty much everyone who is unlikely to watch Fox. In fact advertising on Fox News actually trades at a discount to other broadcasts reaching the same demographic because advertisers know that many of the demographics they do want are actually less likely to buy a product they see advertised on a channel they associate with biggotry.

        The joke on the GOP and the likes of Bill O'Really is that Murdoch has no ideological commitments only business interests. He is quite happy running a Pro-Bejing communist sympathetic news channel on his Asian Star TV and he does not broadcast the BBC signal which might offend the dictators. In the UK Murdoch is quite happy to support Tony Blair's government, provided they do not threaten his economic interests. Murdoch undoubtedly considers his US channels in the same way, if Bush looses power in such a way that a return of Republican government looks to be unlikely in the near future then Fox news will flip flop to the left.

  • The Simpsons (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Pingular (670773) on Friday October 31, 2003 @12:06PM (#7358685)
    are always parodying things. They often parody Fox themselves, but do they sue? No. I can understand Fox News being annoyed at this, but to take such strong action as to sue them is a bit over the top. I might recommend Fox News to tell The Simpsons to get rid of all copies of the episode and to never have it shown, at the most.
  • by computerme (655703) on Friday October 31, 2003 @12:06PM (#7358689)
    The headline should read: "Faux News Considered Suing Fox's "The Simpsons""
    • by Wister285 (185087)
      I think it's funny that people have no problem with extremely liberal news, but when you have something that is right of center it is automatically terrible. In case you didn't know, most news shows that aren't on CNBC or FOX tend to be quite liberal. Just try reading most major news papers. Note article placement too. If you can't see the bias then you shouldn't be posting stuff like this.
      • by NickV (30252)
        That's not true. William Safire, the founding editor of the freaking National Review, is a frequent regular contributor to what many consider the most "liberal" paper in the country, the New York Times.

        MSNBC has quite a few conservative pundits, and CNN has quite a few too. A good example of the difference between CNN and Fox News is Crossfire vs Hannity and Colmes.

        CNN has smart liberals and conservatives on both sides of Crossfile (Tucker Carlson, Robert Novak on the Right) whereas Fox News has a freak
        • Re:Spelling Error... (Score:3, Informative)

          by Carbonite (183181)
          William Safire, the founding editor of the freaking National Review...

          William Buckley (Jr.) founded National Review, not William Safire. Perhaps Buckley has written for the Times occasionally, but I don't think he's a frequent contributor.
        • In other news: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by rgoer (521471)
          Al Franken sonsidered suing NickV for biting material without permission or even credit.
        • by rsidd (6328)
          Sure, some papers may lean left (like the Washington Post,)

          The Washington Post? Left-leaning? The paper that publishes Charles Krauthammer (who's rapidly narrowing the gap with Ann Coulter), George Will, Jim Hoagland, etc?

          Apart from some fringe outfits like the Nation, there is no "left" in the US. The NYT and Washington Post are centre-right, most others are far-right. By global standards I mean.

      • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Friday October 31, 2003 @12:56PM (#7359443)
        I think it's funny that people have no problem with extremely liberal news, but when you have something that is right of center it is automatically terrible.

        You know, that's the first time I've ever heard anybody suggest that there might be a problem with liberal news. That is a mystery: why has nobody on this planet ever criticized the news for being too liberal? You would think that at least one conservative out there would speak up about this issue.

    • by elwinc (663074) on Friday October 31, 2003 @01:21PM (#7359751)
      There's a study out that correlates misperceptions about the Iraq war with news source. You can read the whole .pdf [pipa.org] if you like.

      They took 3 polls with 3334 respondents, gathering data on three misperceptions about the Iraq war
      (1) Evidence found for link between Iraq and Al Queda
      (2) Evidence found of WMDs in Iraq
      (3) Positive world opinion about Iraq war

      News_source______FOX_____CBS_____ABC_____NBC_____ CNN___Print_____NPR/
      _________________________________________________ _____Sources____PBS

      0_misperceptions_20%_____30%_____39%_____45%_____ 45%_____53%_____77%
      1_or_more
      misperceptions___80______71______61______55______ 55______47______23

      Yep, you read that right; fully 80% of Faux watchers had at least 1 of the misperceptions; fully 77% of the NPR/PBS crowd had zero. Wow!

      They also attempted to control for demographic variations in the audience. Here's what they say (end of P.15)

      Looking just at Republicans, the average rate for the three key misperceptions was 43%. For Republican Fox viewers, however the average rate was 54% while for Republicans who get their news from PBS- NPR the average rate is 32%. This same pattern obtains with Democrats and independents.
      I also really like this paragraph (page 16):
      Misperceptions According to Level of Attention to News

      While it would seem that misperceptions are derived from a failure to pay attention to the news, overall, those who pay greater attention to the news are no less likely to have misperceptions. Among those who primarily watch Fox, those who pay more attention are more likely to have misperceptions. Only those who mostly get their news from print media, and to some extent those who primarily watch CNN, have fewer misperceptions as they pay more attention.
      Isn't that amazing? The more you read the paper, or watch CNN, the better informed you are. But the more you watch Faux News, the more likely you are to be misled!! Now of course these are correlations; they don't prove causation, but they are pretty darned persuasive.

      This study was commented on in the wash post [washingtonpost.com] seattle times [nwsource.com] twin cities [twincities.com] and other [medialifemagazine.com] places

      The one place you I can guarentee you won't find it is fox news! [foxnews.com]

      • by pmz (462998) on Friday October 31, 2003 @02:14PM (#7360471) Homepage

        One thing that this study may highlight is that once journalists form a hypothesis, they will tend to seek out the stories that support it.

        Journalism isn't science. It isn't out to prove or disprove anything. Unfortunately, most journalists today seem to have forgotten this subtle issue.
        • by Wah (30840) on Friday October 31, 2003 @02:42PM (#7360802) Homepage Journal
          One thing that this study may highlight is that once journalists form a hypothesis, they will tend to seek out the stories that support it.

          Or that news media organizations tends to hire journalists that lean their direction. Or journalists tend to work for a company that has their general outlook on stuff. What, there shouldn't be leaning in journalism? True dat. But there will probably always be at least a little bit (dang liberals talking about weird shit like anthropic bias and self-selection [kuro5hin.org]).

          'Course, it could also be that people like to be happy, so they stay away from information that might make them unhappy, after learning where unhappy information comes from. Self-esteem self-selection from a media perspective.

          If it leans too far though, it ain't journalism, and calling it 'news' is a stretch. Which is why using Faux is still funny as all hell [quantumphilosophy.net].

          Objectively, it should be the Fox Editorials Shouted At You From On High Channel, but that's tough to fit on a logo.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 31, 2003 @12:07PM (#7358709)
    It's perfectly cromulent for FOX to protect their trademarks. And oil slicks DO keep seals young and supple by preventing them from getting old.

    NRA4Ever!
  • Suing themselves (Score:5, Informative)

    by Octagon Most (522688) on Friday October 31, 2003 @12:08PM (#7358711)
    I heard that interview and Groening said that ultimately the parent corporation decided it did not want to sue itself. They did institute a new rule that the Simpsons, or any other non-news show on Fox, could not use an onscreen information scroll lest the audience become confused and think it was actual news.
    • by nearlygod (641860) on Friday October 31, 2003 @12:10PM (#7358743) Homepage
      Yeah, because their are so many news shows that are animated. I can understand the possible confusion.
      • I do not think the confusion comes from the type of the show over the crawl, but that the entire idea of a lower-third crawl is to present news content that is out-of-band with regard to the program currently being aired.
      • by Blondie-Wan (559212) on Friday October 31, 2003 @12:21PM (#7358918) Homepage
        Yeah, because their are so many news shows that are animated. I can understand the possible confusion.

        Well, in fairness, we are talking about Fox News viewers.

        • by cgenman (325138) on Friday October 31, 2003 @12:26PM (#7358978) Homepage
          Forget the viewers, have you seen Fox News recently? Their fair and balanced reporting standards would be easily satisfied by a debate between Krusty the Clown and Duff Man.
    • The rule has probably been instituted because Fox runs so many damned advertisements on the bottom of the screens during the shows.
    • They also apologized to themselves. ("The Simpsons" to Fox News)

      Which network/channel/show will be the first to parody this on a show? My money is on "Daily Show" on Comedy Central. Fox has opened itself up to legally-protected ridicule.
    • by Lumpy (12016) on Friday October 31, 2003 @12:27PM (#7358996) Homepage
      They did institute a new rule that the Simpsons, or any other non-news show on Fox, could not use an onscreen information scroll lest the audience become confused and think it was actual news.

      If your viewers are so dim as to think that the cartoon animation on the screen is the real news.. I think you have more problems that you realize...
    • by dave_mcmillen (250780) * on Friday October 31, 2003 @12:42PM (#7359216)
      They did institute a new rule that the Simpsons, or any other non-news show on Fox, could not use an onscreen information scroll lest the audience become confused and think it was actual news.

      Aren't they afraid that the Fox news ticker itself might cause confusion and be mistaken for actual news?
    • Does that mean Kent Brockman's out of a job?
    • by sulli (195030) *
      lest the audience become confused and think it was actual news.

      ... except on Faux News, of course, where such confusion is encouraged.

  • by Rombuu (22914)
    I don't get it. Fox doesn't sue someone and its news.

    How about a list of everyone they haven't sued?

    Damn, must be a slow news day.
    • If true, the fact they even considered such a suit is worthy of attention, for a number of reasons (what it says about Fox, for starters).

      If nothing else, it's funny. That's why it was marked with the "It's funny. Laugh." icon. Most humor stories aren't really "news," but that doesn't mean they're not worthwhile, unless you're one of those dour individuals who despises levity in all its forms.

    • by burgburgburg (574866) <splisken06@[ ]il.com ['ema' in gap]> on Friday October 31, 2003 @12:32PM (#7359074)
      It's news because one branch of Fox came very close to suing one of the most popular, profitable shows ever on the Fox Network. It's news because a supposed news(tm) organization was prepared not only to sue to stop free speech (of the well-supported parody class) but were actually considering doing this against a component of their parent corporation. It's news because the whining, bedwetting, crybabies of Fox News are so supremely "Can dish it out but can't take it" that they were actually going to go toe-to-toe with a cartoon.
  • ahem... (Score:4, Funny)

    by isfuglen (714922) on Friday October 31, 2003 @12:08PM (#7358717)
    "Now Fox has a new rule that we can't do those little fake news crawls on the bottom of the screen in a cartoon because it might confuse the viewers into thinking it's real news," he said.

    I'm at a loss for words here. I really am.

  • by Doesn't_Comment_Code (692510) on Friday October 31, 2003 @12:08PM (#7358725)
    This illustrates the level to which our legal system has sunk. A TV Show considers suing another TV Show.

    From my knowledge of the founding fathers and our legal system as it was meant to be: private citizens are given rights. They can bring suits in court or have suits brought against them to preserve public order. Television shows, and more generally, companies are not, I repeat, NOT citizens!
  • This is great! The Simpsons consistently slams its own network. Now the other parts of the least impressive network on earth are angy. Waaaa i'm going to sue you for your "Too close to reality" sarcasm. Waaaaa.
    I do find it funny that FOX has to use lawsuits to work together as a company.
  • by axolotl_farmer (465996) on Friday October 31, 2003 @12:10PM (#7358742)
    ...ripped from alt.fan.simpsons

    Pointless news crawls up 37 percent

    Do democrats cause cancer? Find out more at foxnews.com

    Rupert Murdoch: terrific dancer

    Dow down 5000 points

    Study: 92 percent of democrats are gay

    JFK posthumously joins republican party

    Oil slicks found to keep seals young, supple

    Dan Quayle: awesome

    Ashcroft declares breast of chicken sandwich "obscene".

    Hillary Clinton embarrasses self ???

    Bible says Jesus favored capital-gains cut.

    Only dorks watch CNN.

    Jimmy Carter: old, weak & useless.

    Brad Pitt + Albert Einstein = Dick Cheney.

    • Do democrats cause cancer? Find out more at foxnews.com
      Rupert Murdoch: terrific dancer
      Only dorks watch CNN.


      If they left these three out, there wouldn't have been a problem. It was plenty funny to spoof foxnews, and obvious by context, but you don't need to hit us over the head with it. Oh, right, modern Simpsons.
  • Guess the powers-that-be learned something from the Al Franken affair... or maybe they just feared getting into a popularity contest with the likes of the inanimate carbon rod.

    You don't think Murdoch just told them that he didn't like sueing himself?

    I really don't think Murdoch cares what Fox News thinks, or that the Simpsons parodize him..
    He's making money off both of them, rememnber?
  • by jeffy124 (453342)
    i heard about this when it appeared on fark. one of the stranger things was that they (Fox News) dont want The Simpsons to use the crawler at the bottom at all, fearing confusion. I ask you: How dense does somebody have to be to confuse a cartoon show against a live person cable television news network?
    • This is a society that put in the Owner's manual of my Dodge Caravan: "WARNING: Do not operate vehicle while asleap."
      • by Merk (25521)

        Really? Wow, you'd think they'd at least be able to spell "asleep", wouldn't you? That is dumb.

    • Yes, it is a sad day when American citizens cannot distinguish between cartoon news and real news. I guess Fox News is worried about confusion in their audience base? Maybe O'Reilly should do a "Give me a break" segement.
    • you're grossly overestimating the intelligence of the typical fox news viewer.
  • by Hackie_Chan (678203) on Friday October 31, 2003 @12:10PM (#7358750)
    Everybody should know, as we live in a democratic society:
    Doing a parody is a given right in democracy.

    I do not, however, know if this Simpson episode broke copyright laws. Anyone helpful enough to explain?
    • I haven't seen this particular episode, so I can't make a judgement on how realistic the news ticker looked. But in order to be legal parody, the mock version has to be significantly different enough so that an average person would know that it was a parody and not confuse it with the original.
      • If Fox would quit running it's goddamn commercials over all it's own shows there wouldn't be any confusion.
      • Maybe that is a part of the problem; that someone getting their news from Fox would actually belive that "Do Democrats cause cancer?" was a real news crawl...
      • But in order to be legal parody, the mock version has to be significantly different enough so that an average person would know that it was a parody and not confuse it with the original.

        Could you give me a reference for that definition of parody? I'd be very interested in that. Would that be a legal parody globally? Or just in the US and France? How do you define average? I hear that in Canada they just find someone called Joe to use as a benchmark of averageness / normality? Is that true aswell?
      • I can totally see how it could be construed as very confusing, what with all those four fingered yellow cartoon people walking around and all.
      • Screenshot here (Score:4, Informative)

        by k98sven (324383) on Friday October 31, 2003 @12:54PM (#7359413) Journal
        ..the mock version has to be significantly different enough so that an average person would know that it was a parody and not confuse it with the original.

        Well, to begin with, it was animated.

        I grabbed a screenshot, here [physto.se].

        Now, would -ANYONE- confuse this with the real Fox News?
  • What is everything comming to the Fox company is sueing another Fox company. What is next Microsoft Office sueing Microsoft Windows for including "notepad" in the Windows software. I mean come on the Simpsons make fun of everybody, I think if Fox News starts going down the road of the RIAA, we are going to loose one of the better news channels.
  • I would not be surprised if The Simpsons' importance as a piece of identity and cash cow for Fox will make this lawsuit trivial. They might settle or something, but I highly doubt they would do anything to harm the show. Especially compared to if it was some no-name show that nobody watches.

    And that's politics :-)
  • Whom shall we trust? (Score:5, Informative)

    by YankeeInExile (577704) on Friday October 31, 2003 @12:13PM (#7358791) Homepage Journal
    This conversation has been going on over in alt.tv.simpsons [alt.tv.simpsons] for a few days now. And the succulent nutmeat is: Apart from class-clown Matt Groening saying so on an NPR interview, there is, as yet, no evidence brought to light that any lawsuit was considered, or forthcoming.

    I would not accuse Matt of lying, but perhaps of saying something that is not exactly true for comedic value.

    While I cannot imagine Fox filing suit against themselves (as entertaining as Fox v. Fox would be to see on the docket), it is not unimaginable that they might file against Film Roman.

  • This sounds a lot like Fox News doing a preemptive strike. If FN let this go, then if someone else wanted to imitate their ticker, then they'd have a much harder time gettting the other company to back down if it is shown that they allowed someone else to do it unhindered (the two Fox's are related, but I don't think they're the same corp. entity?)
  • was over copyright infringement. All of those crawls were actual Fox News crawls that just hadn't been used yet. Because they are Fair and Balanced(tm), they are not bound by "journalistic" concerns about timeliness, relevancy or facts. They write their news(tm) days, weeks, months in advance, just waiting for the right moment to announce it. Obviously, someone from the The Simpsons snuck in and pilfered valuable Fox News content.
  • by quantax (12175) on Friday October 31, 2003 @12:17PM (#7358861) Homepage
    Well, this should put to rest what Fox thinks of their viewership:

    "Now Fox has a new rule that we can't do those little fake news crawls on the bottom of the screen in a cartoon because it might confuse the viewers into thinking it's real news," he said.

    Yes because "Oil slicks found to keep seals young, supple..." is very believable and I can't believe all those dirty environmentalists have been lying to us! Oh, and JFK really DID join the replicans after death.

    Facts are Fox Evening news is a joke, and when I had the (dis)pleasure of watching it once at a friends, I seriously thought it was a parody of news since it was so distasteful and circus-like. I honestly see these parody-tickers as an IMPROVEMENT to their otherwise shitty, imcomplete, skewed news.
  • Stations make fun of themselves all the time, and their affiliates. Saturday Night Live constantly makes fun of NBC (as well as other channels), and Letterman is KNOWN for his CBS cracks. Remember Fox's first hit Married With Children? Every other episode they had a Fox crack.

    This is rediculous from every perspective. I am a fan of both the Simpsons and Fox News, and found that particular episode to be quiet comical and laughed by ass off the entire time. It plays to the democratic claims that Fox New
  • More free(almost) publicity for Fox news and the Simpsons show.
  • by pmz (462998) on Friday October 31, 2003 @12:19PM (#7358897) Homepage

    People are finding "The Simpsons" to be a more reliable news source. Apparently, the only people who actually watch Fox News are convalescents who can't reach the remote control (whoever left the TV on should be punished severely).
  • Fox:"25% of viewer thought the headlines were true"

    Groening:"oh, people can come up with statistics to prove anything. 14% of people know that."

    -t
  • by GOD_ALMIGHTY (17678) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (nosnhoj.truc)> on Friday October 31, 2003 @12:23PM (#7358942) Homepage
    Fox News crew was Krusty For Congress, which mocked the perceived rightward-leanings of the channel with pseudo-news items such as "Do Democrats cause cancer?" and "Oil slicks found to keep seals young, supple" scrolling across the bottom of the screen.

    It's not percieved, the proof is here [poynter.org]. This is a former producer for Fox's News Watch media show giving the dirt on how the bias comes down from Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes everyday in an email nicknamed "The Memo".

    Expect to see more info as "The Memo" starts getting leaked. Fox is truly biased, the proof is in information like this. For more analysis, including a rebuttal from Fox, check this [nyu.edu] out. You might also want to read this commentary [clickability.com] over at Editor & Publisher deconstructing Fox's spin on the latest "liberal media" salvo they fired.
  • by yet another coward (510) <yacowardNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Friday October 31, 2003 @12:30PM (#7359041)
    Fox and Fox both stand to gain from a fake news story on Fox about Fox versus Fox. This Fox against Fox story gains Fox coverage from Fox and other non-Fox media. I'm suspicious that this Fox stunt is just a way to get Fox attention and to boost the popularity of Fox News and a slowly declining Fox show. Maybe I'm just suspicious of Fox and Fox, though.
  • It's funny (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Otter (3800) on Friday October 31, 2003 @12:35PM (#7359109) Journal
    Fox News actually markets itself very cleverly. The whole "Fair and Balanced" bit is largely a troll designed to irritate liberals, at which it succeeds incredibly well. Look at all the people here flying into a screeching, shrieking fit at the mention of Fox News. Hell, look at how often you encounter complete non-sequiturs denouncing The Sort Of People Who Get Their Information From Fox News.

    It gets them a ton of publicity, and more importantly it emphasizes to the demographic they want how much loathing and contempt the class of people who run ABC, CNN and the New York Times have for their lessers.

    So, the lawsuit against Al Franken was a big surprised. You'd think they'd know better than to do something so counterproductively lame. Apparently in this case they did no better.

    (Incidentally, it's interesting how after all the ancient Reaganites Ali G had on his show, the only two people I know of who threatened to sue him were Ralph Nader and Naomi Wolf...)

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