Fox's `Next Great Champ' wins a decision

August 30, 2004|By David Zurawik

Score one for The Next Great Champ.

A Los Angeles judge cleared the way for Fox TV's new boxing reality series to debut Sept. 7, refusing to grant a preliminary injunction sought by Mark Burnett and Jeffrey Katzenberg, producers of a rival NBC series, The Contender. Burnett and Katzenberg, whose series is scheduled to premiere in November, sought the injunction on the grounds that Fox had violated California boxing regulations in its rush to get Champ on-air before their show.

While that was the core of their court case, the real fight was over the claim by producers and NBC that Fox stole the idea for its boxing series from them. Fox has repeatedly denied the charge in a war of words that has been going on all summer.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lisa Cole saw the case primarily as a First Amendment matter and ruled accordingly.

"Granting the preliminary injunction ... would be an inappropriate form of prior restraint," Cole ruled late Friday.

"We are grateful the court clearly recognized that this action ... would have inappropriately infringed on our First Amendment rights," a statement from Fox said.

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