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Did you know Fox News fought for its right to lie to you?


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The Media Can Legally Lie

By Mike Gaddy

Writer for lewrockwell.com.

In February 2003, a Florida Court of Appeals unanimously agreed with an assertion by FOX News that there is no rule against distorting or falsifying the news in the United States.

Back in December of 1996, Jane Akre and her husband, Steve Wilson, were hired by FOX as a part of the Fox “Investigators” team at WTVT in Tampa Bay, Florida. In 1997 the team began work on a story about bovine growth hormone (BGH), a controversial substance manufactured by Monsanto Corporation. The couple produced a four-part series revealing that there were many health risks related to BGH and that Florida supermarket chains did little to avoid selling milk from cows treated with the hormone, despite assuring customers otherwise.

According to Akre and Wilson, the station was initially very excited about the series. But within a week, Fox executives and their attorneys wanted the reporters to use statements from Monsanto representatives that the reporters knew were false and to make other revisions to the story that were in direct conflict with the facts. Fox editors then tried to force Akre and Wilson to continue to produce the distorted story. When they refused and threatened to report Fox's actions to the FCC, they were both fired.(Project Censored #12 1997)

Akre and Wilson sued the Fox station and on August 18, 2000, a Florida jury unanimously decided that Akre was wrongfully fired by Fox Television when she refused to broadcast (in the jury's words) “a false, distorted or slanted story” about the widespread use of BGH in dairy cows. They further maintained that she deserved protection under Florida's whistle blower law. Akre was awarded a $425,000 settlement. Inexplicably, however, the court decided that Steve Wilson, her partner in the case, was ruled not wronged by the same actions taken by FOX.

FOX appealed the case, and on February 14, 2003 the Florida Second District Court of Appeals unanimously overturned the settlement awarded to Akre. The Court held that Akre’s threat to report the station’s actions to the FCC did not deserve protection under Florida’s whistle blower statute, because Florida’s whistle blower law states that an employer must violate an adopted “law, rule, or regulation." In a stunningly narrow interpretation of FCC rules, the Florida Appeals court claimed that the FCC policy against falsification of the news does not rise to the level of a "law, rule, or regulation," it was simply a "policy." Therefore, it is up to the station whether or not it wants to report honestly.

During their appeal, FOX asserted that there are no written rules against distorting news in the media. They argued that, under the First Amendment, broadcasters have the right to lie or deliberately distort news reports on public airwaves. Fox attorneys did not dispute Akre’s claim that they pressured her to broadcast a false story, they simply maintained that it was their right to do so. After the appeal verdict WTVT general manager Bob Linger commented, “It’s vindication for WTVT, and we’re very pleased… It’s the case we’ve been making for two years. She never had a legal claim.”

UPDATE BY LIANE CASTEN: If we needed any more proof that we now live in an upside down world, the saga of Jane Akre, along with her husband, Steve Wilson, could not be more compelling.

Akre and Wilson won the first legal round. Akre was awarded $425,000 in a jury trial with well-crafted arguments for their wrongful termination as whistleblowers. And in the process, they also won the prestigious “Goldman Environmental” prize for their outstanding efforts. However, FOX turned around and appealed the verdict. This time, FOX won; the original verdict was overturned in the Appellate Court of Florida’s Second District. The court implied there was no restriction against distorting the truth. Technically, there was no violation of the news distortion because the FCC’s policy of news distortion does not have the weight of the law. Thus, said the court, Akre-Wilson never qualified as whistleblowers.

What is more appalling are the five major media outlets that filed briefs of Amici Curiae- or friend of FOX – to support FOX’s position: Belo Corporation, Cox Television, Inc., Gannett Co., Inc., Media General Operations, Inc., and Post-Newsweek Stations, Inc. These are major media players! Their statement, “The station argued that it simply wanted to ensure that a news story about a scientific controversy regarding a commercial product was present with fairness and balance, and to ensure that it had a sound defense to any potential defamation claim.”

“Fairness and balance?” Monsanto hardly demonstrated “fairness and balance” when it threatened a lawsuit and demanded the elimination of important, verifiable information!

The Amici position was “If upheld by this court, the decision would convert personnel actions arising from disagreements over editorial policy into litigation battles in which state courts would interpret and apply federal policies that raise significant and delicate constitutional and statutory issues.” After all, Amici argued, 40 states now have Whistleblower laws, imagine what would happen if employees in those 40 states followed the same course of action?

The position implies that First Amendment rights belong to the employers – in this case the five power media groups. And when convenient, the First Amendment becomes a broad shield to hide behind. Let’s not forget, however; the airwaves belong to the people. Is there no public interest left—while these media giants make their private fortunes using the public airwaves? Can corporations have the power to influence the media reporting, even at the expense of the truth? Apparently so.

In addition, the five “friends” referred to FCC policies. The five admit they are “vitally interested in the outcome of this appeal, which will determine the extent to which state whistleblower laws may incorporate federal policies that touch on sensitive questions of editorial judgment.”

Anyone concerned with media must hear the alarm bells. The Bush FCC, under Michael Powell’s leadership, has shown repeatedly that greater media consolidation is encouraged, that liars like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter are perfectly acceptable, that to refer to the FCC interpretation of “editorial judgment” is to potentially throw out any pretense at editorial accuracy if the “accuracy” harms a large corporation and its bottom line. This is our “Brave New Media”, the corporate media that protects its friends and now lies, unchallenged if need be.

The next assault: the Fox station then filed a series of motions in a Tampa Circuit Court seeking more than $1.7 million in trial fees and costs from both Akre and Wilson. The motions were filed on March 30 and April 16 by Fox attorney, William McDaniels—who bills his client at $525 to $550 an hour. The costs are to cover legal fees and trial costs incurred by FOX in defending itself at the first trial. The issue may be heard by the original trial judge, Ralph Steinberg—a logical step in the whole process. However, Judge Steinberg must come out of retirement if he is to hear this, so the hearing, set for June 1, may go to a new judge, Judge Maye.

Akre and her husband feel the stress. “There is no justification for the five stations not to support us,” she said. “Attaching legal fees to whistleblowers is unprecedented, absurd. The ‘business’ of broadcasting trumps it all. These news organizations must ensure they are worthy of the public trust while they use OUR airwaves, free of charge. Public trust is alarmingly absent here.”

Indeed. This is what our corporate media, led by such as Rupert Murdoch, have come to. How low we have fallen.

Wiki Link

Jane Akre and her husband Steve Wilson are former employees of Fox owned-and-operated station WTVT in Tampa, Florida. In 1997, they were fired from the station after refusing to knowingly include false information in their report concerning the Monsanto Company's production of RBGH, a drug designed to make cows produce more milk. They successfully sued under Florida's whistle blower law and were awarded a US $425,000 settlement by jury decision. However, Fox appealed to an appellate court and won, after the court declared that the FCC policy against falsification that Fox violated was just a policy and not a "law, rule, or regulation", and so the whistle blower law did not apply.

The court agreed with WTVT's (Fox) argument "that the FCC's policy against the intentional falsification of the news -- which the FCC has called its "news distortion policy" -- does not qualify as the required "law, rule, or regulation" under section 448.102.[...] Because the FCC's news distortion policy is not a "law, rule, or regulation" under section 448.102, Akre has failed to state a claim under the whistle-blower's statute."[1]

In 2001, Jane Akre and her husband won the Goldman Environmental Prize as a recognition for their report on RBGH. [2]

In 2004, Fox filed a US$1.7 million counter-suit against Akre and Wilson for trial fees and costs. Akre and Wilson both appear in a major portion of the 2004/5 critical documentary, The Corporation.

In 2007 Jane became the editor-in-chief of the national news desk at InjuryBoard.com.[3]

I know this is rediculously old, but I thought some people on this forum probably needed to see it.

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What is more appalling are the five major media outlets that filed briefs of Amici Curiae- or friend of FOX – to support FOX’s position: Belo Corporation, Cox Television, Inc., Gannett Co., Inc., Media General Operations, Inc., and Post-Newsweek Stations, Inc. These are major media players! Their statement, “The station argued that it simply wanted to ensure that a news story about a scientific controversy regarding a commercial product was present with fairness and balance, and to ensure that it had a sound defense to any potential defamation claim.”

It appears Fox wasn't the only media player who asserted this position.

BTW, "Amicus Curiae" means "Friend of the Court," not "Friend of Fox." So your author is apparently asserting not only a pretty silly one-sided bias, but also rank ignorance.

"Friend of Fox" would of course be "Amicus Vulpes." Just for the record.

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I think there is a slight difference between spin and blatant lies and fraud in reporting. Did you even read what was posted?

Yes, otherwise I would not have responded...

I don't watch any one news source without a filter. Fox is blatantly right wing biased. MSNBC is blatantly left wing biased and all of the others are subtly left wing biased with CNN being most obvious.

They all lie at times and constantly spin things.

Exactly...

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Do the other channels declare themselves to be "fair and balanced?" :huh:

CNN = "The Most Trusted Name in News" -- hard to trust someone who is biased

MSNBC (during the week of the 2008 election) = "The Power of Change" - gee, must've been a McCain slogan, huh?

CBS News = "CBS News is Very Good News" - bias isn't "very good news"

.....and on and on and on.

All of them ask you to trust them. Trust implies truth without bias when news is concerned. Is Fox more "sinister?" Maybe. But it is a difference of degree, not of kind.

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CNN = "The Most Trusted Name in News" -- hard to trust someone who is biased

MSNBC (during the week of the 2008 election) = "The Power of Change" - gee, must've been a McCain slogan, huh?

CBS News = "CBS News is Very Good News" - bias isn't "very good news"

.....and on and on and on.

All of them ask you to trust them. Trust implies truth without bias when news is concerned. Is Fox more "sinister?" Maybe. But it is a difference of degree, not of kind.

Are they trusted? Maybe. They still aren't trying to say, "we are fair and balanced."

MSNBC doesn't claim that they are non-liberal. Everyone with a slight bit of sense can tell they are anti-Fox and pro-Obama. They make it a point to do segments on how full of it Fox are.

Saying, "CBS is very good news" still isn't suggesting that they aren't slanted.

"Fair and balanced" is an intentional lie. Couple it with all of their distorted stories and make believe plots and they are kings of outright lies.

I don't remember anyone but Fox putting McCain's words into Biden's mouth several months ago. That should have been a huge wake-up call to the viewers, but I guess some people will defend anything their party does simply because it's "their party."

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Like I said there is a difference between bias, slanted coverage and blatant lieing and fraud.

And like I said, several other media outlets joined Fox with friend of the court briefs.

You act as if Fox is doing something materially different. CNN lied about "assault weapons" a few years back and got caught red-handed. Just flat lied. Is that somehow different than what Fox does?

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And like I said, several other media outlets joined Fox with friend of the court briefs.

You act as if Fox is doing something materially different. CNN lied about "assault weapons" a few years back and got caught red-handed. Just flat lied. Is that somehow different than what Fox does?

So you are seriously trying to defend Fox? :huh:

Just curious, which do you watch for breaking news?

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Are they trusted? Maybe. They still aren't trying to say, "we are fair and balanced."

MSNBC doesn't claim that they are non-liberal. Everyone with a slight bit of sense can tell they are anti-Fox and pro-Obama. They make it a point to do segments on how full of it Fox are.

Saying, "CBS is very good news" still isn't suggesting that they aren't slanted.

"Fair and balanced" is an intentional lie. Couple it with all of their distorted stories and make believe plots and they are kings of outright lies.

I don't remember anyone but Fox putting McCain's words into Biden's mouth several months ago. That should have been a huge wake-up call to the viewers, but I guess some people will defend anything their party does simply because it's "their party."

To be clear, I'm not defending Fox and their party is not my party.

What I am saying is that you are making an artificial distinction to "prove" that Fox is bad while the others are acceptable. That's not true. Fox is bad, but news has been slanted left for years. Again, CNN LIED about assault weapons a few years back. Made up a story to show machine guns and called them "assault weapons" and said these weapons would be banned if only we could stop the sunsetting of the AWB. It was a rank lie. What's the difference between that and what Fox does?

MSNBC has RECENTLY made up a story about "white people with guns" showing up to rallies to protest healthcare. You all know what I think of these wingnuts doing that, but what MSNBC did was wrong, because the guy they were showing wasn't white. He was black. They edited the footage to hide the fact that the guy with the gun was black to make it look like opposition to Obama is based on racial issues. That's a rank lie. How is that different from what Fox does?

The answer in both case is that it isn't.

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MSNBC has RECENTLY made up a story about "white people with guns" showing up to rallies to protest healthcare. You all know what I think of these wingnuts doing that, but what MSNBC did was wrong, because the guy they were showing wasn't white. He was black. They edited the footage to hide the fact that the guy with the gun was black to make it look like opposition to Obama is based on racial issues. That's a rank lie. How is that different from what Fox does?

Not saying I don't believe you but can I have a link about this? I don't watch televised news unless it is a breaking story.

When any news program makes it a point to engage in "channel wars" like they all do, integrity is lost and I don't watch it.

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Not saying I don't believe you but can I have a link about this? I don't watch televised news unless it is a breaking story.

When any news program makes it a point to engage in "channel wars" like they all do, integrity is lost and I don't watch it.

name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="
type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="425" height="344"></embed></object>">
name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="
type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="425" height="344"></embed></object>" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" wmode="transparent" width="425" height="350">

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Here's the guy MSNBC was showing during that clip....

name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="
type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="425" height="344"></embed></object>">
name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="
type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="425" height="344"></embed></object>" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" wmode="transparent" width="425" height="350">

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