Nation contributor and TV host Laura Flanders isn’t the first feminist to face down some gun-toting cowboys, but her battle is a little unusual. Since 2008, Flanders’s GRITtv has broadcast the voices of marginalized experts and grassroots activists on cable, satellite and public television, as well as online. “I interview people with grit,” Flanders explained in a phone interview.
But last summer, she received a phone call asking if she was aware that there was another Grit TV station in town. Flanders jumped online, where she discovered the new Grit (grittv.com), an “action-oriented” digital channel targeting men between 25 and 54 (sexagenarians, beware!).
Launched on August 18, the new Grit is “built around the classic male hero, with a focus on western, war and action movies,” said Jonathan Katz, president and CEO of Katz Broadcasting, which operates the network.
No sane person is likely to mistake Harrison Ford for Naomi Klein—but viewers might find it difficult to separate the near-identical branding. Flanders says her voicemail and e-mail have been filled with messages from viewers frustrated with the quality of Grit’s digital signal. Viewers confuse contact information on her website for Grit’s—and even the programming. One disgruntled viewer wrote to Flanders: “Your channel showing war films is propaganda!”
Last fall, GRITtv’s lawyer sent Grit a cease-and-desist letter. GRITtv has applied for a trademark; Grit has, too. Legally, Flanders’s longtime prior use of “GRIT” gives her the right to the brand. The Grit guys have yet to acknowledge the consumer confusion, but even a cowboy could tell you that intellectual property law no longer resembles the Wild, Wild West. That frontier mentality goes by another name now: theft.