I was stunned to learn this morning that Fox News could fire reporters for insisting on telling the truth! I heard this on the Thom Hartmann Radio Show and decided to research it. Although it turns out the story is a few years old, it was still "News to Me". I thought too, others may not have heard about this, so I decided to write this diary, to sound yet another alarm.
The Corporate Media is all too willing to slant, and spin, and filter, and ban the voices of Candidates. Just try to find the Candidate, in between the latest Scandal reports. Those same Corporate execs are apparently willing to go to extraordinary measures to Protect their Agenda-setting Power, even if that means fighting for "Right to out-right Lie" to the public -- just ask Dan Rather!
Back to the Fox News Follies, there have been a few recent KOS Diaries that have cover the saga of Jane Akre v. News Corp
This diary was an especially good summary of the case:
Fox News wins in court
by Zwoof -- Jul 31, 2007
Here the initial case against Fox:
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.
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.
Well they sued the Fox station for wrongful termination AND Won!
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 ...
They further maintained that she deserved protection under Florida's whistle blower law. Akre was awarded a $425,000 settlement.
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.
In other words: It is up to each News Station whether or not they LIE -- the FCC has NO power to stop them! Simply a stunning Ruling!
Jane Akre herself has recent expanded on the details and implication of the case being overturned by the Appeals court. (A judgment which could cost Akre $1.7 million dollar penalty, in fines and court costs, by the way, due to the Fox counter suit.)
The Media Can Legally Lie
Written by Jane Akre
Aug 21, 2006
What is more appalling are the five major media outlets that filed briefs of Amici Curiae- or friends of FOX – to support FOX’s position:
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 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.
Or as Jane Akre has succinctly put it:
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.
Americans would be surprised by this if this was generally known, I think. Honesty is such a political football, Why is there "NO Requirement for Honesty" from our "shared public airways"? Why is there No Debate about this obvious Corporate-giveaway, which rewards Fox with its "You Report -- You decide the Truth" principle?
Once again, Corporate influence seems to be behind this legal precedent -- namely "Commercial Speech". It seems there is was a Supreme Court ruling that placed the rights of "Commercial Speech" above the publics right to hear the Truth:
Lawful Regulation on Speech
Commercial speech, which was warranted no protection by the Court until 1980 in Central Hudson Gas & Electric, is now protected under an intermediate level of scrutiny because the motivation to market goods and services is believed sufficient to overcome any chill caused by government regulation.
The government can ban deceptive or illegal commercial speech; any other regulation must be supported by a substantial interest to be achieved by restrictions, regulations in proportion to that interest ...
The government CAN regulate "deceptive or illegal commercial speech" -- but DO they, MUST they? Or is this once again, a quiet concession to the grand American ethic: "let the Markets decide" ?
It seems Corporation's right to sell us stuff is paramount, and now is even MORE weighty than the People's right to have truth-in-advertising"! Why did Fox News win this Appeal, when Jane Akre's only crime was trying to protect the public from possible side-effects of Genetically-Modified products?
Worse yet, this protection for deceptive speech has been extended to Political Candidates as well! Candidates can out-right lie too, and the Media MUST broadcast those deceptions as well!
Simply amazing! and I guess an ultimate by-product of the 1st Amendment -- afterall who would serve as the Truth Police, otherwise? I suppose, it is suppose to be WE The People:
False Ads: There Oughta Be A Law! - Or Maybe Not
Brooks Jackson -- Updated: May 10, 2007
Here's a fact that may surprise you: Candidates have a legal right to lie to voters just about as much as they want.
That comes as a shock to many. After all, consumers have been protected for decades from false ads for commercial products. Shouldn't there be "truth-in-advertising" laws to protect voters, too?
In fact, the Federal Communications Act even requires broadcasters who run candidate ads to show them uncensored, even if the broadcasters believe their content to be offensive or false.
Rejecting a candidate's ad because it's false is simply not allowed.
Stations MUST LET THE CANDIDATES SPEAK -- even if they are lying -- SO why are so few Candidates given any "equal time"? Why is the Corporate Media once again ALLOWED TO PICK AND CHOOSE, which Candidates they broadcast and which they don't?
Why do Corporate Media's Editorial Policies, ONCE AGAIN dictate what the People are allowed to see and hear? The Law requires "equal access" -- too bad there's NO ONE left in the Justice Dept or the FCC willing to enforce the Law!
WE The People, are the suppose to be the ultimate Truth Detectors! Of course that system of democracy assumes the Media is ACTUALLY TELLING US, what the Candidates are saying -- instead of their own made-up narratives, of what a few of Candidates are supposedly up to!
The Law: Candidates for public office
If any licensee SHALL permit any person who is a legally qualified candidate for any public office to use a broadcasting station, he shall afford equal opportunities to all other such candidates for that office in the use of such broadcasting station: Provided, That such licensee shall have no power of censorship over the material broadcast under the provisions of this section.
Thankfully, Dan Rather has decided to take up the cause of Free Speech and Honesty in Reporting. He is suing CBS News for "breach of contract". Hopefully, this case will bring some of those hidden Media motives to light:
Sep 21, 2007 -- CNN
Dan Rather: I was forced to step down
"This is the right stand, at the right time, about the right issue," Rather told CNN's Larry King Thursday night, in his first TV interview since filing the suit. "We have to, somehow, get back to integrity in the news and somehow at least alleviate, if not eliminate, these big corporate and big government pressures."
"You can't have freedom of the press if you're going to have large, big corporations and big government intruding and intimidating in newsrooms. The chilling effect on investigative reporting is going to be something we don't want to see," he said.
Post Script: to this sorry state of Free Speech in America:
I had a discussion with a co-worker recently about "anti-trust" suits, and the general lack of enforcement of the Sherman act anymore. (It started off as Discussion of the EU's anti-trust rulings against Microsoft).
The discussion eventually turned into a debate about the "Motives of People" vs the "Motives of Corporations". (Once again kudos to Thom Hartmann for cluing me in, to this!)
My main point ended up being, that Corporations should no longer be "legally" considered Persons in this country! Corporations never die, they have no souls, and are primarily motivated by Profits, and little else. Why should a corporation's rights be able "to trump" an individual's human rights, nearly every time?
Real living breathing People have many motives and complex core values, that the average Corporation has little use for, or even comprehension of.
A Corporation is a "Mechanical abstraction", NOT a Living Being!
Assuming there is a God that tracks the motives of the heart, I wonder if "in the eyes of God" ... If "Corporate Entities" have the "same worth" as any "poor soul" who is just strugging to survive ?
If the Supreme Court, supposedly tries to enforce such moral and ethical principles, Why is it that the Supreme Court continues to uphold this "legal fiction" then -- that "Corporations are People too"?
Why is it that Corporations, like Fox News, have been granted the "Right to Lie" to an unsuspecting public?
This next election may be more important than anyone realizes -- since the latest Court Appointments, are known to view "Corporate Entities" "as having MUCH more value" than mere citizens, who have limited net worth, and so limited economic impact.
Is this really what America has come to?
Are we really a Country that values above all else, the rights to Profits, over the rights of the People to pursue life, liberty, and happiness?