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Legal Challenge to 'Champ' Takes a Hit

For a second time, a judge refuses to block the premiere of the Fox boxing TV series.

August 28, 2004|Scott Collins | Times Staff Writer

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge Friday knocked down the latest challenge from rival producers trying to block the Sept. 7 premiere of Fox's "reality" boxing show "The Next Great Champ."

It was the second legal rebuff in less than two weeks for DreamWorks and reality impresario Mark Burnett, producers of the competing boxing show, "The Contender," scheduled to air on NBC in November. The "Contender" producers had asked for the injunction as part of their lawsuit claiming unfair business practices and fraud on the part of Fox Broadcasting Co. and "Champ" producers Endemol USA and Lock & Key Productions.

Before ruling against "Contender" on 1st Amendment grounds, Judge Lisa Hart Cole said: "What the plaintiff is really concerned about is being aced out of a broadcasting concept."

Scott Grogin, Fox vice president for corporate communications, said his network would seek to have the entire "Contender" lawsuit dismissed.

"We are grateful the court clearly recognized that this action constituted an improper prior restraint which would have inappropriately infringed upon our 1st Amendment rights," Grogin said in a statement.

DreamWorks spokesman Andy Spahn said he did not know whether the plaintiffs would appeal the ruling, or whether the suit would even continue. He said a decision would come after weekend consultations with attorneys. One possibility, he said, would be to refer the "Contender" producers' complaints against "Champ" to the California State Athletic Commission or state attorney general to investigate. A memo by a former head of the commission that was critical of some "Champ" practices was included with the Aug. 17 suit.

The gloves first came off this spring when NBC and "Contender" producers claimed that Fox had swiped their boxing show idea.

Despite all their battling, however, both shows have followed a similar playbook when it comes to securing special deals from the state for reduced broadcast license fee taxes and an exemption from a law requiring the immediate public disclosure of boxing match results.

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