Discovery sued over Muslim project

Visionaire claims ex-prexy and TLC stole company's work

Visionaire Media has filed suit against Discovery Communications, claiming that Visionaire’s former prexy Noessa Higa stole idea for “All-American Muslim” and gave it to the cabler’s TLC.

Suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Wednesday by Miles Feldman of Raines Feldman, also names Higa as a defendant. It seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, as well as screen credit.

Visionaire was set up to create cross-cultural programming, including shows like “On the Road in America” and “Muslim Women.”

In its suit, Visionaire claims that early this year, two Discovery executives, Rita Mullin and Eric Powell, met with Higa and Visionaire’s Jerome Gary and said Discovery wanted to broadcast a show about Muslims in America. Visionaire claims that they “orally represented” them “that if Discovery liked and used the American Muslim project, that it would hire and pay” Visionaire and give them credit as producer.

Visionaire said it pitched and began developing a reality show based on Muslim families in Dearborn, Mich., and that it spent money finding and contacting potential famulies, conducting interviews, analyzing costs and other activities. But in April, Higa gave notice that she was leaving Visionaire. In June, the suits states, Visionaire discovered that Higa began to work with Discovery on an American Muslim project without Visionaire’s participation. The suit says that Discovery started promoting “All-American Muslim” in July with “the same casting, roles of cast members, locations, plot elements, major events and themes” as Visionaire’s project.

Suit claims breach of implied oral contract and express oral contract, as well as breach of confidence and interference with contract. Visionaire said that Higa was obligated to not disclose the project when she went to work for Discovery, which they said “intentionally took actions in an effort to induce Higa to breach her contract with Visionaire.”

Discovery had no comment.