Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Court Rules Media Can Legally Lie

Fl Appellate Court Rules Media Can Legally Lie
By Mike Gaddy

On February 14, a Florida Appeals court ruled there is absolutely nothing
illegal about lying, concealing or distorting information by a major press
organization. The court reversed the $425,000 jury verdict in favor of
journalist Jane Akre who charged she was pressured by Fox Television
management and lawyers to air what she knew and documented to be false
information. The ruling basically declares it is technically not against
any law, rule, or regulation to deliberately lie or distort the news on a
television broadcast.

On August 18, 2000, a six-person jury was unanimous in its conclusion that
Akre was indeed fired for threatening to report the station's pressure to
broadcast what jurors decided was "a false, distorted, or slanted" story
about the widespread use of growth hormone in dairy cows. The court did
not dispute the heart of Akre's claim, that Fox pressured her to broadcast
a false story to protect the broadcaster from having to defend the truth
in court, as well as suffer the ire of irate advertisers.

Fox argued from the first, and failed on three separate occasions, in
front of three different judges, to have the case tossed out on the
grounds there is no hard, fast, and written rule against deliberate
distortion of the news. The attorneys for Fox, owned by media baron Rupert
Murdock, argued the First Amendment gives broadcasters the right to lie or
deliberately distort news reports on the public airwaves.

In its six-page written decision, the Court of Appeals held that the
Federal Communications Commission position against news distortion is only
a "policy," not a promulgated law, rule, or regulation.

Fox aired a report after the ruling saying it was "totally vindicated" by
the verdict.

© 2003