Monday, October 27, 2008

Actor Michael Douglas sues Paradigm Media Group

Originally published in the South Florida Business Journal February 28, 2006 by Kevin Gale...

Actor Michael Douglas sues Boca Raton companies

Actor Michael Douglas on Monday filed a federal lawsuit against two Boca Raton video production companies, alleging they offered him a position as host of an educational show that turned into an infomercial with ads for Mrs. Fields cookies, Hershey's candy, Wells Fargo online banking, TurboTax and other products.

The lawsuit, seeking more than $75,000, is against Family Television Studios (FTS) and Paradigm Media Group (PMG) of Boca Raton. A Dec. 30 Business Journal article reported the Public Broadcasting System said in the "frequently asked questions" part of its Web site it had no affiliation with the two production companies and others that were pitching a show featuring Douglas.

The lawsuit said a May 13 letter by Edie Gershon of FTS offered Douglas a job hosting a television series called "Learning About...." The letter, attached as an exhibit to the suit, described FTS as "a family-owned and operated national television production company that produces primarily high-end educational television for national distribution on networks such as Discovery Channel, The Learning Channel and public television."

The lawsuit alleges, in reality, FTS produces commercial programming including infomercials and advertising.

The Business Journal has left a message seeking comment from Gershon.

The letter said the show was "scheduled for satellite uplink to all 349 public television stations beginning in November of this year [2004]," but FTS didn't have an agreement with WXEL - television's channel 42 and radio's 90.7 FM - to do so as presenting station until Sept. 26, 2005.

Nov. 21, WXEL notified PMG the contract was null and void because the series violated Federal Communications Commission regulations and PBS guidelines and regulations for public television.

The suit said the series "amounts to nothing more than thinly veiled infomercials" and the defendants "always intended the series to air on commercial television stations."

One of the likely issues in the litigation appears to be the status of the agreement between Douglas and FTS.

The lawsuit states Douglas' assistant and director of public relations, Allen Burry, hand-wrote changes to an agreement that gave Douglas approval rights over the use of his name and likeness to promote the series.

The suit said FTS has denied the existence of the provision.

Douglas' attorney then wrote, on Dec. 20, there was no binding agreement because FTS never signed and returned one that was fully executed.

The lawsuit said the defendants, on Jan. 10, faxed a letter to Douglas' attorney with a copy of the agreement that failed to include all the hand-written notations.

The suit also says that FTS claimed Douglas replaced Mary Tyler Moore as the host of another television show called "Simple Living," but Douglas never had an agreement to do so.

An Aug. 10 episode of "Simple Living" aired on the Bravo network. The show featured Douglas five times in openings, closings and segues using footage shot for "Learning About...."

"Douglas, as the apparent host of the series, appears to be endorsing the products featured on the infomercial," the lawsuit states.

The Business Journal reported in December that FTS and PMG are in different suites at 370 W. Camino Gardens Blvd. Another occupant in the building is WJMK, a video production company owned and operated by Mark Kielar, who was embroiled a couple of years ago in a controversy involving Walter Cronkite hosting a program written about in The New York Times and Time magazine. The two parties settled after suing each other.

A television series host agreement attached to Douglas' lawsuit says the actor would provide services to WJMK, including taping of segments. The agreement says WJMK would pay Douglas $1,000 an hour for additional taping time.

Kielar and WJMK are not named as defendants in the suit involving Douglas.

Link to the original article here

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