Can an entertainment channel use the word ‘news’? We explore this question and more in our latest blog post.
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The FCC’s Definition of ‘News’
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is an independent agency of the United States government that regulates communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable. The FCC was established by the Communications Act of 1934 and is charged with regulating interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable. The FCC’s main goals are to promote competition, innovation, and investment in the communications industry.
The FCC’s six-part test
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) defines news as “newsworthy events and stories of public interest and importance sufficient to warrant attention by the public or the broadcasting audience.”
In order to make this determination, the FCC has a six-part test that each news program must meet in order to be considered “news.”
These six parts are:
1. Timeliness: The event or story must be about something that has recently happened or is happening now.
2. Importance: The event or story must be something that is important or of interest to a significant number of people.
3. Consequences: The event or story must have some sort of consequence or impact on the lives of those affected by it.
4. Uniqueness: The event or story must be something that is not regularly covered by the news media. This could mean that it is an unusual event, or that it is a common event that is being covered in an unusual way.
5. Significance: The event or story must be significant in some way, such as being notable, newsworthy, or important. This could mean that it has some historical importance, or that it is simply interesting and worth paying attention to.
6 prominence: The people involved in the event or story must be prominent individuals such as celebrities, politicians, business leaders, etc.
The ‘News’ Exception to the Fairness Doctrine
The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Fairness Doctrine has been a part of broadcast regulation since 1949. The Doctrine requires that broadcasters present controversial issues in a manner that is honest, equitable, and balanced. However, there is an exception to the Fairness Doctrine for entertainment programming.
The ‘news’ exception and its three prongs
In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is responsible for regulating broadcasters. One of the FCC’s rules is the Fairness Doctrine, which says that broadcasters must present controversial issues in a fair and balanced way.
However, there is an exception to the Fairness Doctrine for news programming. This exception, often called the “news exception” or the “news prong,” allows broadcasters to air one-sided news programs as long as they meet three conditions:
1. The program must be about a current event or issue of public importance.
2. The program must be aired close to the time when the event or issue is of current interest.
3. The program must present a variety of viewpoints on the event or issue.
The “news exception” has been used by entertainment channels like Fox News and MSNBC to air programs that some people say are biased and one-sided. Critics argue that these channels are using the “news exception” to get around the Fairness Doctrine and that their programming is not actually news.
Applying the ‘News’ Exception to an Entertainment Channel
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has an exception in its rules that allows broadcasters to use the word “news” in the name of an entertainment channel as long as the programming on the channel is predominately news and information.
The first prong: is the channel’s programming about current events?
Yes, the channel’s programming is about current events.
The second prong: does the channel’s programming air on a regular basis?
In order for a television channel to use the word “news” in its title, it must satisfy two conditions: first, a substantial portion of the channel’s programming must consist of bona fide news programming, as opposed to entertainment or other non-news content; and second, the news programming must be aired on a regular basis.
The first prong is relatively straightforward: if a channel only airs news programming sporadically, or if the vast majority of its content is not news-related, then it cannot use the word “news” in its title. This standard was recently reaffirmed by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Fox News Network, LLC v. TVEyes, Inc.,
The second prong is somewhat less clear. In order for a channel to be considered regular, there is no set amount of time that its news programming must air; rather, courts will look at whether the channel has a “regular schedule” or “constant flow” of news programming. See IDT Corp. v. News Group Newspapers Ltd.,
In Fox News Network, LLC v. TVEyes, Inc.,the Second Circuit applied this second prong to find that Fox News Channel was entitled to use the word “news” even though it only airs news programs for 14 hours out of every 24-hour day. The court held that because Fox News Channel airs at least some news programming every hour of every day (even if it is not continuous), it satisfies the requirements for using the word “news” in its title.
The third prong: is the channel’s programming objective and nonpartisan?
The prongs are (1) the use of the word “news” in the channel’s name, (2) the presence of news-gathering operations, and (3) whether the channel’s programming is objective and nonpartisan. In order for a channel to be considered a bona fide news operation, it must satisfy all three prongs.
As to the third prong, the court found that Fox News Channel’s programming is indeed objective and nonpartisan. The court noted that Fox News Channel provides “a mix of traditional hard news reporting with opinion and analysis.” While some of the commentators on Fox News Channel might espouse conservative viewpoints, the court found that there was “a diversity of views” represented on the channel.
An entertainment channel can use the word “news” in its title as long as the channel clearly states that it is an entertainment channel and not a news channel. The word “news” is not regulated by the FCC, so there are no restrictions on its use.