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Media Liability: Evolving Before Our Eyes

Defending the cost of a media liability suit can be financially devastating for a company. Its never been more important for agents to work with clients to identify potential areas of risk.
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media liability: evolving before our eyes

As Johnny Depp sues NewsGroup Newspapers, publisher for the U.K. newspaper The Sun for libel, the media liability market is thrust into the spotlight.

In the libel suit brought in the U.K. courts, Depp alleges the tabloid defamed his character by calling him a “wife-beater" in a 2018 article. In a further case brought in the U.S., Depp is also suing Amber Heard, his ex-wife, for defamation and asking for $50 million in damages. In both countries, all parties face enormous legal costs.

For publishers and media companies, the cost to defend a liability claim can be financially devastating, which means it's important for agents and brokers to work with their clients to identify all potential areas of risk.

“Insureds often need help understanding the risks and the potential implications. Claims examples that speak to that client will go a long way in telling the story, which is where an experienced carrier can help," says David Hart, senior vice president, product head—media, Hiscox. “Media claims tend to be more expensive to defend than other professional liability claims, so it's vital to understand the motivations and nuances in this field."

“Rates in the U.S. media liability market remain fairly steady and competitive. Even with recent moves by carriers to withdraw or reduce capacity and line size, the market continues to sustain recent pricing trends," says Sarah Lamberg, technology, cyber and media liability underwriter, Beazley. “Recently, rates have been hardening in some segments, such as investigative journalism, and we expect these trends to continue throughout the pandemic."

Businesses forced to move to a digital environment because of the pandemic are now reliant on alternative channels to deliver content, so adding technology, cyber or general liability products to a media liability policy is prudent.

“Most media insurance carriers can provide a comprehensive media policy with added technology services," says Regina Williams, vice president media liability, OneBeacon. An additional consideration is the rise in companies using social media influencers to connect with their target audiences, as well as business interruption coverage to cover technological failures that can have a hugely negative impact on a firm's revenue and reputation.

Further, a large number of employees either working from home or working remotely carries inherent data security risks. “Agents and clients need to address the risk of holding customers' sensitive corporate information and consumer data in this environment," Lamberg says, which means adding a cyber policy is a must-have protection to mitigate this type of exposure.

In the most recent update to the media liability space, social media network Twitter has been rebuked by President Trump and other Republicans for adding fact-checking labels to some of the president's tweets in which he alleged that mail-in ballots for the upcoming elections are likely to be fraudulent.

The president's response to these labels was to issue an executive order asking the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to petition the Federal Communications Commission to rethink the scope of Section 230, a provision of the Communications Decency Act that shields social media companies from liability for content posted by their users and allows them to remove lawful but objectionable posts.

The ramifications for Twitter and all social media platforms are yet unknown, but for now, Twitter is “exploring ways to broaden its policies against misinformation about mail-in voting to cover a wider array of posts, including those that contain more general mischaracterizations about the process," according to Politico

Olivia Overman is IA content editor.

Monday, September 28, 2020
Professional Liability