All’s Fair in Love and Reality Television: First Amendment Protection of Casting in Entertainment Programming
ABA's Communications Lawyer
July 2013

The article discusses Claybrooks v. ABC Inc., in which plaintiffs Nathaniel Claybrooks and Christopher Johnson, two African-American males who unsuccessfully applied to be the Bachelor on ABC’s The Bachelor, in 2011, sued ABC and others involved in producing the shows, alleging that the roles of the Bachelor and Bachelorette have failed to feature nonwhite cast members, in violation of civil rights laws. The suit was unsuccessful, however, and ABC and the other defendants prevailed after the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee concluded that the First Amendment barred the plaintiffs’ claims.

The dispute raised an issue of first impression for the court: whether the First Amendment protects the casting decisions for entertainment works. The district court concluded that the casting process is part and parcel of an entertainment show’s creative process, and because the two are inseparable, the First Amendment protects them as one and the same. Thus, Claybrooks means that a plaintiff cannot force the creators of an entertainment work to deliver a particular message to a show’s audience, regardless of the importance of the desired message or the purity of the plaintiff’s intentions.

To read the full article, click here.