In an indirect way, a Florida court in 2003 effectively gave Foxnews, and by extension, all of the mainstream media, legal license to print lies and propaganda. The FCC, via their lack of action, given their legal purview, also quietly endorsed the ruling.
This is prima facia evidence that the people are under psychological warfare, care of the judicial system and government. The corporate media essentially overstepped government policy, unequivocally demonstrating the lawlessness of our current age.
“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.” (Source) (bolding added)
This decision establishes case precedent that provides the justice system a way to refuse FCC regulations—an undeniable act of lawlessness, given the courts are there to uphold government policy. This is specifically in relation to the distribution of false information to the public, which is a clear act of fraud and deceit on the part of Foxnews.
Presumably, under FCC regulations, Fox should have had its broadcasting license pulled but instead nothing came down from the FCC.
This means the regulatory agencies ostensibly tasked with preventing news outlets from willfully printing falsehoods, are completely defunct and ineffectual. What’s more, the court system itself also condoned the acts of Fox, setting the future precedent for willful distribution of disinformation into the public arena.
This is one nugget of truth we can share with our close-minded fellows to help wake them up.
Update – Snopes posted an article in 2014 allegedly debunking the claim that the media, specifically Fox news, was “legally allowed to lie” via an appeals court decision. That article did not properly take into account case precedent, in that, the facts of the case do demonstrate that the news outlet misled the public, and the agency in charge, the FCC, justified the court’s decision by saying the matter was editorial in nature when it was clearly not.
The “first amendment argument” mentioned in the below article is in relation to this editorial position, in that, a news outlet has the “right” to make editorial commentary, in a free speech capacity. But misleading the public, without clearly indicating it is opinion, is the issue at hand here.
In other words, the debunking attempt by Snopes was not valid.
The Media Can Legally Lie
by Mike Gaddy
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.ed
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.
By Randy LoBasso
Coincidentally, all mainstream news organizations missed a piece of information that basically changed journalism as we knew it.
Fark.com had to bring this one to our attention. On Friday, they linked to the blog page of CeaseSPIN.org, a website “dedicated to uniting voices in support of a return to more objective, truthful, fair, balanced, relevant and representative news reporting.”
The CeaseSPIN headline gets right to the point: “Fox News gets okay to misinform public, court ruling.”
Here’s the rundown: On August 18, 2000, journalist Jane Akre won $425,000 in a court ruling where she charged she was pressured by Fox News management and lawyers to air what she knew and documented to be false information.
The real information: she found out cows in Florida were being injected with RBGH, a drug designed to make cows produce milk – and, according to FDA-redacted studies, unintentionally designed to make human beings produce cancer.
Fox lawyers, under pressure by the Monsanto Corporation (who produced RBGH), rewrote her report over 80 times to make it compatible with the company’s requests. She and her husband, journalist Steve Wilson, refused to air the edited segment.
In February 2003, Fox appealed the decision and an appellate court and had it overturned. Fox lawyers argued it was their first amendment right to report false information. In a six-page written decision, the Court of Appeals decided the FCC’s position against news distortion is only a “policy,” not a “law, rule, or regulation.”
So, Fox and the other gladiatorical cable news channels were given the okay to legally lie right around the time of the Iraq War’s birth – when media lies coincidentally hit a peak in both frequency and severity.
I did a Google search related to this story. Here’s what I came up with.
A Google search involving the words “Court of appeals + Fox News + Jane Akre” came up with 1,050 results. The first ten results spoke of this specific story, but of those results, not one was a mainstream media organization. The results included FoxBGHsuit.com, InjuryBoard,com, ThirdWorldTraveler.org, CeaseSPIN.org, Purefood.com, Relfe.com, SourceWatch.org, OrganicConsumers.org, TheCorporation.com, and DailyKos.com.
A Google search involving the words “Fox News + Jane Akre” brings up almost the same results, the only difference being a Wikipedia page for Jane Akre. On the “External Links” section on Jane’s Wikipedia page, we find an InjuryBoard.com article, as Jane is now editor-in-chief of the website. We also find an interview with Jane and her husband, from a documentary titled “The Corporation,” in which they detail what happened during the ordeal.
A Google News search brings up one article – written by Akre for InjuryBoard.com.
The closest hit to a mainstream media news site is a Baltimore Sun reader/commenter named “gonzoliberal” who has copy-and-pasted the CeaseSPIN.org article into a comment thread. Huffington Post has mentioned the case as well in a series of articles about tainted milk.
No mainstream news organizations – not even Fox television competitors – have reported on Jane Akre’s case for suspected reasons, which won’t be elaborated on.
Putting aside the fact that studies linked the hormone to cancer, the case is likely one of many just like it – especially since Akre and her husband, according to their own accounts, were initially offered a bribe to go away and never speak of the case again.
Sort of depressing, right?
Stillness in the Storm Editor’s note: Did you find a spelling error or grammar mistake? Do you think this article needs a correction or update? Or do you just have some feedback? Send us an email at [email protected]. Thank you for reading.