2021 Georgia Code
Title 51 - Torts
Chapter 5 - Libel and Slander
§ 51-5-10. Liability for Defamatory Statements in Visual or Sound Broadcast; Damages

Universal Citation: GA Code § 51-5-10 (2021)
  1. The owner, licensee, or operator of a visual or sound broadcasting station or network of stations and the agents or employees of any owner, licensee, or operator shall not be liable for any damages for any defamatory statement published or uttered in or as a part of a visual or sound broadcast by one other than the owner, licensee, or operator or an agent or employee thereof, unless it is alleged and proved by the complaining party that the owner, licensee, operator or the agent or employee has failed to exercise due care to prevent the publication or utterance of the statement in the broadcast.
  2. In no event shall any owner, licensee, or operator or the agents or employees of any owner, licensee, or operator of such a station or network of stations be held liable for any damages for any defamatory statement uttered over the facilities of the station or network by or on behalf of any candidate for public office.
  3. In any action for damages for any defamatory statement published or uttered in or as a part of a visual or sound broadcast, the complaining party shall be allowed only such actual, consequential, or punitive damages as have been alleged and proved.

(Ga. L. 1949, p. 1137, §§ 1-3.)

Law reviews.

- For note discussing possible tort consequences of invasions of privacy by television, see 3 Mercer L. Rev. 327 (1952). For note on defamation in radio and television, see 15 Mercer L. Rev. 450 (1964). For comment on American Broadcasting-Paramount Theatres, Inc. v. Simpson, 106 Ga. App. 230, 126 S.E.2d 873 (1962), see 25 Ga. B. J. 310 (1963). For comment, "Room for Error Online: Revising Georgia's Retraction Statute to Accommodate the Rise of Internet Media," see 28 Ga. St. U.L. Rev. 923 (2012).


Usual rules of respondeat superior apply.

- Since a "defamacast" is not considered "slander," the usual rules of respondeat superior are applicable, as with libel. Williamson v. Lucas, 166 Ga. App. 403, 304 S.E.2d 412 (1983).

In television and radio cases, courts historically based classification of defamatory matter on whether or not a prepared script was used; a libel being found when the script is used and "slander" when extemporaneous remarks are made. American Broadcasting-Paramount Theatres, Inc. v. Simpson, 106 Ga. App. 230, 126 S.E.2d 873 (1962).

Defamation by telecast is now actionable by law regardless of whether it be libel or slander. Montgomery v. Pacific & S. Co., 131 Ga. App. 712, 206 S.E.2d 631, aff'd, 233 Ga. 175, 210 S.E.2d 714 (1974), overruled on other grounds, Diamond v. American Family Corp., 186 Ga. App. 681, 368 S.E.2d 350 (1988).

Defamation by radio and television falls into a new category: in this category, defamation by broadcast, or "defamacast," is actionable per se. American Broadcasting-Paramount Theatres, Inc. v. Simpson, 106 Ga. App. 230, 126 S.E.2d 873 (1962).

Allegation of criminal activity in a radio broadcast by anonymous caller.

- Trial court erred in granting summary judgment to a media company in a defamation action pursuant to O.C.G.A. §§ 51-5-1 and51-5-4; the trial court erred in finding that a musician was a public figure, as the musician was only known locally, and a false claim by an anonymous caller played on the air by a disc jockey was not a matter of public concern, and erred in finding that O.C.G.A. § 51-5-10(a) shielded the company, as there was an issue of fact as to whether the disc jockey made a defamatory statement as well. Riddle v. Golden Isles Broad., LLC, 275 Ga. App. 701, 621 S.E.2d 822 (2005).

Award of $100,000 for slander per se in radio broadcast not excessive.

- Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 51-12-12, a trial court set aside as excessive a jury's award to a musician of $100,000 in general damages for slander per se committed by a radio personality. This was error since the evidence showed the radio broadcast falsely accusing the musician of murder damaged the musician's reputation and career, which was based on the musician's reputation as a positive role model for fathers. Riddle v. Golden Isles Broad., LLC, 292 Ga. App. 888, 666 S.E.2d 75 (2008), overruled on other grounds by Rockdale Hospital, LLC v. Evans, 306 Ga. 847, 834 S.E.2d 77 (2019).

Failure to investigate.

- In an action by a high school football coach against the superintendent of schools and a television station news reporter, a television news report concerning allegations of the coach's prior involvement in illegal gambling did not constitute "defamacast," slander, or false light invasion of privacy, even if the reporter failed to investigate adequately. Brewer v. Rogers, 211 Ga. App. 343, 439 S.E.2d 77 (1993).

As long as the state does not impose liability without fault, it may define for itself the appropriate standard of liability for publisher or broadcaster of defamatory falsehood injurious to a private individual. Any rule of strict liability that would amount to a guaranty of accuracy of factual assertions is unacceptable. Thus, a negligence standard is established when defamation of a private individual by publication is involved. Rosanova v. Playboy Enters., Inc., 411 F. Supp. 440 (S.D. Ga. 1976), aff'd, 580 F.2d 859 (5th Cir. 1978).

Subsection (c) applies to station owner.

- Subsection (c) of O.C.G.A. § 51-5-10 is not limited to allegedly defamatory statements made by a person other than the owner of the station or the owner's agents. Williamson v. Lucas, 166 Ga. App. 403, 304 S.E.2d 412 (1983).

"Actual damages" is not necessarily limited to pecuniary loss, or loss of ability to earn money. Fuqua Television, Inc. v. Fleming, 134 Ga. App. 731, 215 S.E.2d 694 (1975).

Loss of distributorship.

- When the plaintiff testified that, in addition to humiliation and embarrassment, the plaintiff had lost an opportunity to purchase a milk distributorship, there was ample evidence from which the jury could have found actual, consequential, and punitive damages. Williamson v. Lucas, 166 Ga. App. 403, 304 S.E.2d 412 (1983).

Standard for determining damage amount.

- Once the determination had been made that damages should be awarded, the proper standard for determining the amount was "the enlightened conscience of impartial jurors," which was not in conflict with O.C.G.A. § 51-5-10. Williamson v. Lucas, 171 Ga. App. 695, 320 S.E.2d 800 (1984).

Failure to charge subsection (c).

- The trial court erred in refusing to charge that the plaintiff's recovery, if any, should be limited to the "actual, consequential, or punitive damages alleged and proved," and the error was not harmless when at no place in the charge was the jury instructed that the plaintiff would have to prove each element of damages. Williamson v. Lucas, 166 Ga. App. 403, 304 S.E.2d 412 (1983).

Loss of office by candidate cannot be said to be natural, immediate, and legal consequence of alleged libelous charge and due exclusively to it. Special damages for loss of office have no proper place in a suit for libel brought by a candidate for the reason that such damages alleged are too remote and speculative to justify serious consideration. Anderson v. Kennedy, 47 Ga. App. 380, 170 S.E. 555 (1933).

Whether station's broadcast is justified is jury question.

- Whether a broadcasting station was justified in telecasting the matter at issue should not be determined by the trial court or an appellate court as a matter of law. Justification should be determined by a jury. Pacific & S. Co. v. Montgomery, 233 Ga. 175, 210 S.E.2d 714 (1974).

Cited in Mathis v. Cannon, 276 Ga. 16, 573 S.E.2d 376 (2002).


Am. Jur. 2d.

- 50 Am. Jur. 2d, Libel and Slander, §§ 241, 242.


- 53 C.J.S., Libel and Slander, §§ 1 et seq., 149, 156, 157 et seq., 284 et seq.


- Legal aspects of radio communication and broadcasting, 82 A.L.R. 1106; 89 A.L.R. 420; 104 A.L.R. 872; 124 A.L.R. 982; 171 A.L.R. 765.

Doctrine of privilege or fair comment as applicable to misstatements of fact in publication (or oral communication) relating to public officer or candidate for office, 150 A.L.R. 358.

Defamation by radio or television, 50 A.L.R.3d 1311.

Invasion of privacy by radio or television, 56 A.L.R.3d 386.

Liability for personal injury or death allegedly resulting from television or radio broadcast, 20 A.L.R.4th 327.

Libel and slander: necessity of expert testimony to establish negligence of media defendant in defamation action by private individual, 37 A.L.R.4th 987.

Liability of internet service provider for internet or e-mail defamation, 84 A.L.R.5th 169.

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