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FOX Wants to Legally Lie

When you create the realm of what is published, you can define what’s “fair and balanced”

I was listening to Progressive Talk Radio recently while in Chicago, even though the reception and volume aren’t very loud when playing the Progressive Talk radio station in Chicago. You know, in Chicago all you can hear is republican talk radio (like Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity), and although the reception might not be as good as other stations, it’s good to hear a different perspective on the news. So when I listened I heard a story (mentioned only briefly) about two reporters working for Fox News (you know, the “fair and balanced” ones cable news station). FOX had them making a story, and when they submitted their story, the higher-ups told them they didn’t want to say that, so they were asking these two reporters to lie in their story.
Well, these two people are journalists, they don’t like the notion of lying in their news story, so they apparently went though nearly 40 rounds of changes to the story, when FOX would tell them the story needs more changing.
So after a while, FOX fired the pair of reporters. And eventually those reporters even sued FOX for what happened, and they won.
But don’t worry, FOX too took ruling to a higher court to contest it, and the jury actually found in favor of Fox News.
Now, I was in my car and couldn’t write the reporter’s names down, and I had no way of knowing how altered this story was (just from listening to one [person’s account of the story over the radio waves). So I had to just do an Internet search for more information about this story, and I could only find it in one place. So I started reading Project Censored to try to learn the full story, and for a series of news pieces of details relating to how the media no longer has to accurately release the news to people.
This started back in December of 1996, where Fox fired a married couple as investigators at WTVT in Tampa Bay, Florida. In 1997, Jane Akre and Steve Wilson worked on a bovine growth hormone (BGH) story. To quote the story by Al Krebs: “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.”
Now, Akre and Wilson even said that the Fox station was initially pleased with the story. But within a week, “Fox executives and their attorneys wanted the reporters to use statements from Monsanto representatives” (Monsanto is the company that manufactured BGH) that these reporters knew were false. They were even told to make other additional untrue changes to their story. Fox apparently wanted them to produce a story that wasn’t true. So Akre and Wilson refused to lie about their findings, and they even “threatened to report Fox’s actions to the FCC,” Fox fired them.
Okay, so at this point the reporters sued Fox. “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.” In addition to that, the Florida jury found that Akre could get an additional amount of money because of Florida’s whistle blower law.
But FOX appealed the case, and less than 3 years after the ruling for the reporters (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.”
Fox got away with this because they were able to assert that there is no law or rule against distorting the news in the media. And, oddly enough, they used the First Amendment to say that newscasters actually have the right to distort or lie about news report to the public, thanks to the First Amendment. Their argument never contested Akre’s claim that she was pressured by FOX to produce a false story, they just (successfully) claims that they had the right to make that report that she didn’t agree with.
And even beyond that, FOX decided to try to sue Akre and Wilson for FOX’s court costs in these suits.
Yeah, that’s not being cruel after an unfair ruling. I mean, I’m sure FOX really does need the help with their finances from these two reporters. Akre saw the irony in these suits when 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.”

Liane Casten updated the story, to mention that five major media “outlets” (Belo Corporation, Cox Television, Inc., Gannett Co., Inc., Media General Operations, Inc., and Post-Newsweek Stations, Inc.) as “friends of FOX,” ruled briefs to support Fox’s position. Their statement even stated” “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.”
Reading that is what made me laugh my butt off. “The product was present with fairness and balance.” I’ve already thought that byline from Fox News was bull#$%&, the notion of a Republican-slanted quote unquote “news” organization so slanted calling themselves “fair and balanced,” but to then hear those words used by other news organizations to support FOX’s claim to be able to distort the news, well, that was the icing on the cake (granted, that cake was given to me with a nail file in it after the media put me in prison to losing the ability to get fair news).
But after I laughed at the insanity of overturning sanity, I realized that since FOX used the First Amendment for this decision, it meant that First Amendment rights belong to employers. The premise that the news — or the airwaves — belong to the people, becomes destroyed when even large corporations use the First Amendment as a shield in this way. I mean, honestly, it’s one thing when one person wants to be able to say their mind, and it’s entirely another thing when media giants hide behind the First Amendment so that they can freely distort the news to the people.
Those 5 media corporations that were “friends of FOX” even statement in their support that they were “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.”
Wonderful. Good thing I spout my opinions off and don‘t care who has a problem with it. But it is funny (or sad, depending on how you think of it) that these companies who are supposed to be giving you the news are worried about not only federal policies, but also individuals, who want to hear the real news, and not their distorted perspective on what they think is all you need to know.
Couple this with President Bush’s appreciation of greater media consolidation (I like the game Monopoly, but do we have the bring monopolies everywhere in the market now?), and then consider what Liane Casten thinks: “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.”
That really is a nice thing, corporations using rulings to help people to actually help the corporations out. That’s what paying lawyers a ton of money for, I suppose. Use the things to help protect us against us. Just what we need.

You know, I don’t have a bottom line to this story. I know that when I say something in an editorial, I look for as much evidence and as many accounts (on both sides of an issue) as I can to make a point. I’m not saying I’m not biased; everyone is, everyone wants their opinion to be the strongest and win people over. The difference comes when a large corporation decides to withhold information on a news show — and more importantly, lie about findings — to get the message they want across. I know the media as a rule is more liberal, and I know FOX is more conservative (or Republican). But when they use the argument of “free speech” to allow them to lie on the news, that’s when you have to question how corporataions have found individual rights to make corporaste loopholes, making you revaluate this country now works.
A basic tenet Ayn Rand used to say to people who were working on coming up with their own conclusions was “check your premises.” In order to come to the best conclusions, you need to make sure all of your preliminary data is not only correct but also thorough. If some of my sources (from Internet sites) seems questionable, I understand — but if we’re worried about the validity of our sources, we may have to worry about our major news outlets as well.

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