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When Roger West first launched the progressive political blog "News From The Other Side" in May 2010, he could hardly have predicted the impact that his venture would have on the media and political debate. As the New Media emerged as a counterbalance to established media sources, Roger wrote his copious blogs about national politics, the tea party movement, mid-term elections, and the failings of the radical right to the vanguard of the New Media movement. Roger West's efforts as a leading blogger have tremendous reach. NFTOS has led the effort to bring accountability to mainstream media sources such as FOX NEWS,CNN and Andy Breitbart's "Big Journalism. Roger's breadth of experience, engaging style, and cultivation of loyal readership - over 92 million visitors - give him unique insight into the past, present, and future of the New Media and political rhetoric that exists in our society today. What we are against: Radical Right Wing Agendas Incompetent Establishment Public Coruption Corporate Malfeasence We are for: Global and Econmoic Security Social and Economic Justice Media Accountability Healthy Communities

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

FAUX NEWS EARNED ITS "RIGHT" TO LIE

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. {See footnote below titled Whistle Blower}

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)



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.”

Many news agencies lie and distort facts, but not many have the guts to admit it...in court...positioning the First Amendment as their defense!


THE WHISTLE BLOWER LAWSUIT:

Wilson and Akre planned a four part investigative report on Monsanto's use of rBGH, which prompted Monsanto to write to Roger Ailes, president of Fox News Channel, in an attempt to have the report reviewed for bias and because of the "enormous damage that can be done" as a result of the report.

WTVT did not run the report, and later argued in court that the report was not "breakthrough journalism." Wilson and Akre then claimed that Monsanto's actions constituted the news broadcast telling lies, while WTVT countered that it was looking only for fairness. According to Wilson and Akre, the two rewrote the report over 80 times over the course of 1997, and WTVT decided to exercise "its option to terminate their employment contracts without cause," and did not renew their contracts in 1998. WTVT later ran a report about Monsanto and rBGH in 1998, and the report included defenses from Monsanto.

The 2003 documentary, The Corporation, featured Wilson and Akre discussing their battle with WTVT, with Wilson claiming that the jury "determined that the story they pressured us to broadcast, the story we resisted telling, was in fact false, distorted, or slanted." Project Censored called their story one of the "Most Censored Stories" of 2003,claiming that the "Court Ruled That the Media Can Legally Lie." Robert F. Kennedy Jr. later quoted Wilson in his book, Crimes Against Nature, with Wilson asking "What reporter is going to challenge a network ... if the station can retaliate by suing the reporter to oblivion the way the courts are letting them do to us?" Wilson and Kennedy both failed to note that Wilson and Akre originally brought the suit. Following the story, Akre and Wilson won the Goldman Environmental Prize for the report, as well as an Ethics in Journalism Award from the Society of Professional Journalists. The two continue to challenge WTVT's license, the last such challenge coming in 2005.

Following Wilson and Akre's contract not being renewed, the two filed a lawsuit concerning WTVT's "news distortion" under Florida's whistleblower laws, claiming their termination was retaliation for "resisting WTVT's attempts to distort or suppress the Monsanto recombinant bovine growth hormone story." In a joint statement, Wilson claimed that he and Akre "were repeatedly ordered to go forward and broadcast demonstrably inaccurate and dishonest versions of the story," and "were given those instructions after some very high-level corporate lobbying by Monsanto (the agriculture company that makes the hormone) and also by members of Florida’s dairy and grocery industries." The trial commenced in summer 2000 with a jury dismissing all of the claims brought to trial by Wilson, but siding with one aspect of Akre's complaint, awarding Akre $425000 and agreeing that Akre was a whistleblower because she believed there were violations of the Communications Act of 1934 and because she planned on reporting WTVT to the Federal Communications Commission.
So there you have it readers, while Faux News claims fair and unbalanced, the truth is that they tweak and distort to suit their needs and best interests.



NFTOS