CYA Quick Tips for Producers, Defamation


Reading The Essential Defamation Concepts for TV Producers is a prerequisite for this page.  Check it out now, we’ll wait.

CYA Quick Tips


Never Rely on an Anonymous Source for Potentially Defamatory Information.


Never Rely on Obviously Biased Sources for Potentially Defamatory Information (e.g., ex-spouses)


Saying “According to” Will not Protect You From a Lawsuit

You can be sued for repeating something defamatory, even if you clearly state the original source of information.

Example: You want to include the following scandalous report from in your program — “Joe Blow kills puppies for pleasure, according to”

The phrase “according to” is not a cloak of immunity that will save you from a defamation lawsuit when Joe Blow’s angry lawyers come calling.  When you repeat what originally reported, you’re giving that story more credibility and a wider audience. For that reasons court have concluded that it’s appropriate to permit a person harmed by a false statement to sue both the person who originally said it and all those who helped spread it.


Saying “In My Opinion” Does Not Turn an Otherwise Factual Statement into an Opinion

If you’ve included a defamatory factual statement in your program, adding the phrase “in my opinion” will not save you from liability.  Courts will look to see whether “your opinion” is something that could be proven true or false.


Don’t Get Cute With Your “Questions”: Phrasing an Otherwise Defamatory Statement as a Question Won’t Necessarily Protect You From a Defamation Lawsuit

Simply putting a question mark on the end of a reputation-damaging false statement is a tactic that’s obvious to your audience, potential plaintiffs, jurors and judges.  Jon Stewart exposed this little game years ago.  Check out the video below regarding “questions.”

Screenshot 2014-07-24 13.07.33

Let Jon Stewart explain the problem with defamatory questions.


About The Author

TV Juriste
Founder/Web Designer

Harvard-trained attorney and long-time TV super fan, Terri James (TV Juriste) has worked at E!, NBCUniversal, BBC and for a TV personality, for television shows including, E! News, The Daily Ten, Live From the Red Carpet, Life in the Fab Lane, The Soup, Americans in Bed, Chicago PD, and Royal Pains, among others.Terri's All-Time Favorite TV Shows: The Wire, Seinfeld, Colbert Report, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Sex and the City, 30 Rock, SNL, Homeland (first season), Breaking Bad (final season), My So Called Life, Meet the Press (Tim Russert Years), and Lil Bush.

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