A “Storage Wars” lawsuit brought by former participant in the reality television series hit a wall Tuesday when a judge declared A&E has First Amendment rights in its production activities that allow it to essentially stage some aspects of the contest.
David Hester sued his former employer, A&E, in December when he was fired after complaining about rigging in contests on the reality television show “Storage Wars.”
The goal is to buy abandoned storage lockers, hoping to hit on treasure amid the junk. In his complaint, posted online by entertainment news site TMZ.com, Hester gave examples of A&E planting treasure, including a stack of old newspapers announcing the death of Elvis Presley and a BMW mini car.
The complaint accuses A&E of violating the Communications Act of 1934, which “makes it illegal to rig a contest of intellectual skill with the intent to deceive the viewing public.” He also accused the network of unfair business practices. He was seeking $750,000 in damages, according to the TheWrap.com.
Judge Michael Johnson of Los Angeles Superior Court dismissed the charges on Tuesday, citing the network’s First Amendment right to freedom of speech.
“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,” the judge said, according to Uinterview entertainment news.
Hester’s case against A&E on wrongful termination is still open. A&E claims it did not fire Hester for whistle-blowing, but rather because he was “distracting from the bigger issues, which include other disagreements between the parties,” as Uinterview puts it.
An A&E producer told ABC that the treasures are all actually found in storage lockers, but sometimes the items are moved from one locker to another.
Mike Cormack, “Storage Wars” fan and educator, writes in a monthly Iowa Educator’s Journal about the draw the show has for him: “While I would be the first to admit that ‘Storage Wars’ on today’s A&E isn’t exactly ‘Masterpiece Theatre,’ it is oddly addictive to me … There is always much suspense, since every locker might be concealing a hidden treasure.”
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