Does a reality show have to be real? The first round in the Storage Wars lawsuit is over and judging by the result: No, reality shows don’t have an obligation to be real.
Judge Michael Johnson of the Los Angeles Superior Court ruled today in favor of A&E and Storage Wars as former star Dave Hester Michaelsaw the Unfair Business Practices portion of his lawsuit tossed out the window. Johnson ruled that any injunction against A&E would hinder the network’s First Amendment rights.
Johnson wrote in his ruling: “It is well settled that television broadcast involves free speech, as well as production activities that advance or assist in the creation of a television program.”
Hester filed a lawsuit against Storage Wars and A&E claiming that the show’s producers had rigged the contest. Hester claims that A&E producers were “salting” (or adding valuable items to) the storage lockers and distorting the “reality” of the show.
A&E argued that, under the first Amendment, it had the right to tell it’s story how ever it chose fit. Hester countered saying that the Communications Act of 1934 states that a person shall not “supply any contestant in a purportedly bona fide contest of intellectual knowledge or intellectual skill any special and secret assistance whereby the outcome of such contest will be in whole or in part prearranged or predetermined.”
Johnson ruled, however, that the Communications Act doesn’t apply in this case since Hester was competing on a TV show. Johnson wrote that the competition here “arises entirely out of non-commercial conduct concerning the production and broadcast of an expressive work.”
Hester’s lawyers argued that the Storage Wars lawsuit dealt with some activities that were not filmed for the show. For instance, the lawsuit claims that A&E issued a press releases denying that the show was fabricated. But Johnson ruled that the argument was “not persuasive.”
But the Storage Lawsuit isn’t over yet. Hester and A&E still have to hear rulings on breach of contract and breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.