Discovery Communications LLC, TLC’s parent company, is in a legal dispute with California-based LMNO Cable Group, the company that produced the show. The show, which features Trent and Amber Johnston and their five children, premiered last year.
Forsyth Mayor Eric Wilson said he started watching the show when it first aired, interested because it’s based in his city.
Viewers nationwide have seem glimpses of Forsyth and Monroe County — schools, businesses, the courthouse square, city streets and some of the Middle Georgians they’ve interacted with — while camera crews documented the Johnstons’ lives.
“The show gives good exposure to the city of Forsyth,” Wilson said. “We are appreciative of that.”
During filming, residents have seen the camera crew around town and set up at the Johnstons’ house a block or two away from the courthouse, Wilson said.
The show’s next season was set to air this year, according to a statement from Discovery Communications. But LMNO hasn’t handed over the footage for the new season.
LMNO filed a federal lawsuit against Discovery this summer, alleging that Discovery had violated contracts and other claims relating to LMNO’s production of “The Little Couple,” another TLC show, and the show “Killer Confessions” on the Investigation Discovery network.
LMNO contended in its suit that Discovery agreed to pay $2.64 million for the next eight episodes of the “7 Little Johnstons” but chose to end its agreement during the summer while still owing $632,000.
“If they pay for the show, we’ll give it to them,” said Stephen Mick, an attorney representing LMNO.
In Discovery’s statement, the company contends it has “lived up to” the terms of its contract and paid LMNO for services rendered, but despite numerous requests, LMNO hasn’t delivered any portion of the show.
“Through their actions, LMNO is holding our (intellectual property) hostage and denying audiences access to the continued story of the Johnston family, who opened their home and family to the production of this series,” according to the statement.
If they pay for the show, we’ll give it to them.
Stephen Mick, a lawyer representing LMNO Cable Group, Inc.
LMNO’s lawsuit also mentions an alleged fraud and embezzlement scheme purportedly perpetrated by an accountant working for LMNO as being part of the dispute. The production company contends it first learned it was “the victim of a crime” in late 2015.
Court records in the case indicate that the FBI has investigated LMNO’s business practices.
Discovery alleges that the company discovered LMNO was “systematically defrauding” the network and sought out more information, according to federal court records.
Concerned, Discovery sent out notices of termination to LMNO for several shows, including the “7 Little Johnstons,” according to court records.
In September, Discovery filed a motion asking a judge to force LMNO to hand over episodes of the “7 Little Johnstons” that Discovery argued it had already paid for in full and owns.
A federal magistrate denied the motion Oct. 18, saying he couldn’t rule on the issue without ruling on the rest of the claims made by LMNO and Discovery, a matter that must be resolved by a U.S. District Court judge.
Mick said the parties will be required to participate in mediation, likely sometime next year, before going to trial.
“LMNO is very distressed and unhappy that an unfortunate circumstance brought on by a third party has spiraled in a way that has impacted a lot of shows and a lot of people who work on those shows who really don’t deserve to have their livelihoods affected,” Mick said, referring to the alleged embezzlement scheme and dispute with Discovery.