NEW YORK — A pair of prominent liberal orgs marched on Fox News Channel’s headquarters in Gotham Monday after asking the Federal Trade Commission to block the cable news net from using the slogan “Fair and Balanced.”
But late in the day, the FTC said it wouldn’t consider the petition — filed by MoveOn.org and Common Cause — arguing it was a First Amendment issue.
“I am not aware of any instance in which the Federal Trade Commission has investigated the slogan of a news organization. There is no way to evaluate this petition without evaluating the content of the news at issue. That is a task the First Amendment leaves to the American people, not a government agency,” FTC chair Timothy J. Muris said in a statement.
But MoveOn.org and Common Cause said Washington has a duty to protect the consumer from false and misleading advertising and that Fox News is anything but fair or balanced. They said the net’s coverage is “deliberately and consistently distorted and twisted to promote the Republican Party and extreme right-wing viewpoint.”
The FTC filing came one week after MoveOn launched an aggressive promotion campaign for Robert Greenwald’s new docu “Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism.”
MoveOn and Common Cause held an ayem press conference at a midtown hotel announcing the FTC action before leading about 50 supporters four blocks to Fox News. In addition to posting copies of the petition, they handed out 100 copies of Greenwald’s film to Fox News staffers entering and exiting the building.
MoveOn co-founder Wes Boyd said while news programming and other forms of speech are indeed protected by the First Amendment, advertising isn’t, necessarily.
The TV network biz loves to rely on slogans — known as “puffery” in the advertising world — to promote themselves. Whether they hew to the truth is open to debate.
Fox News provided no comment Monday on the FTC filing.
“Fox’s use of ‘Fair and balanced’ will be difficult to defend in light of their preferential treatment of Republicans and conservative ideas,” said Common Cause prexy Chellie Pingree.
Also attending the press conference was former FTC chair Michael Pertschuk, who said that MoveOn’s petition had merit. Like others, he said that Greenwald’s docu proved that Fox News “functions principally as an undisclosed propaganda arm of the Republican Party.”
Boyd also said that there is a petition pending with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office asking that Fox News be stripped of its trademark for the phrase “Fair and Balanced.”