The four major broadcast television networks are familiar to most Americans – ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX. Docket Alarm analytics reveal that these networks face litigation for a variety of reasons: from copyright and civil rights to more surprising types, like asbestos. The wide variety in case types can often be connected to the unique corporate ownership history of each network, reflecting how broadcast media has changed over time.
CBS faced more lawsuits over the last few years than any other broadcast network, totaling 358. The company, also known as Columbia Broadcasting System, faces primarily asbestos litigation. The asbestos lawsuits bear no relation to CBS’ broadcast activities, but they do relate to the network’s corporate ownership history.
According to CBS owner Paramount’s 10-Q form to the Securities Exchange Commission, these cases are the result of products made by the network’s prior owner, Westinghouse. company from the 1970s, Westinghouse. Manufacturing company Westinghouse acquired CBS in 1995 . Westinghouse, including CBS, was eventually bought by Viacom. After another two decades of transactions, ViacomCBS became Paramount last year. While the asbestos lawsuits concern products designed and manufactured decades ago, Paramount and CBS are still named on the suits to this day.
Other case types for the network include product liability—mostly in reference to the aforementioned asbestos—and patent. The company has also faced a handful of civil rights and copyright lawsuits.
CBS’s primary law firms for federal litigation since 2019 are Frilot, McShea Law Firm, Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott, and Swartz Campbell.
CBS’s most frequented courts are the Eastern District of Louisiana, the Northern District of California,and the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
As shown above, NBC is engaged in 174 legal proceedings over the last five years, with an average of 2.8 proceedings per month. The broadcast network’s parent company is NBCUniversal, formed by its merger with film studio Universal. NBC itself can count General Electric among its corporate ancestors.
NBC’s top case types are civil rights and personal injury. The litany of allegations in such cases include breaches of privacy from the Today Show, and abusive conduct from NBC employees, as well as disability discrimination, among other lawsuits.
NBC’s top law firms are Morgan Lewis & Bockius, Ballard Spahr, and Holland & Knight.
NBC’s most frequented courts are the New York Southern and Eastern Districts and California Central District Court. These districts cover New York City as well as Los Angeles.
FOX’s legal proceedings over the last five years totals 88 cases, averaging 1.5 a month.
The Walt Disney Corporation acquired all of FOX except for their television and broadcasting channels–which Disney is barred from owning due to FCC regulations– in 2019. The remaining assets, including FOX broadcast stations and FOX News, operate under the Fox Corporation. FOX’s most common case types are copyright and civil rights.
FOX’S primary law firms are Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, Mintz & Gold, Alston & Bird, and O’Melveny & Myers.
FOX’s most frequented courts are the California Central District Court, the New York Southern District Court, and the U.S. Court of Appeals Ninth Circuit. The FOX corporate headquarters is also located in New York City.
ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Company. The network’s most common case types are copyright, statutory actions, and civil rights. ABC’s copyright cases often due to infringement claims from artists. In these cases, ABC is alleged to infringe on the copyrights ranging from postcard visuals to an entire TV show premise.
ABC’s primary law firms are Ballard Spahr (shared with NBC), Davis Wright Tremaine, O’Melveny & Myers (shared with FOX), and Williams & Connolly.
ABC’s most frequented courts are the New York Southern District, the District of Columbia, and the California Central District. ABC’s broadcast center and production corporate headquarters are respectively located in Manhattan, New York, and Burbank, California.
The cases that each of America’s top television companies are involved in is almost as diverse as TV programming itself. As the entertainment industry has fluctuated and consolidated, their ownership structures – and the variety of legal matters they contend with – has become more complex.