Florida Court: Broadcasters Have Right to Lie

A Florida appeals court has overturned a jury verdict against
FOX Television for attempting to force two reporters to falsify and
distort a 1996 report on the effects of bovine growth hormone
(BGH). According to a statement from the Organic Consumers
Association, the husband-wife investigative team of Jane Akre and
Steve Wilson had spent nearly a year battling with station
officials at WTVT in Tampa, Florida, over the content of their BGH
report. The award-winning reporters were eventually fired ?without
cause? when they refused to make certain changes that would have
clearly distorted the report. They filed suit in 1998 under the
Federal Communications Act and the Florida whistle-blower
protection law. While Wilson lost his case, a jury awarded Akre
$425,000 in 2001 for wrongful termination. The appeals court
overturned that verdict on a legal technicality, accepting FOX?s
argument (which had previously been rejected six times by three
different judges) that the FCC?s news distortion policy was not a
?law, rule, or regulation,? and that Akre therefore did not have a
proper claim to whistle-blower protection. Akre and Wilson won the
2002 Goldman Environmental Prize for their efforts to bring their
story to light. While the court did not dispute the facts of the
case, FOX claims it was ?totally vindicated? by the verdict.
Leif Utne

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