MEDIA CASE RAISES EYEBROWS:

Fla. Court Rules It’s Legal for Press to Lie

Source: Sierra Times

The Court held that the Federal Communications Commission position against news distortion is only a “policy,” not a promulgated law, rule, or regulation.

A Florida Appeals court ruled on February 14 that it is legal for press organizations to lie, conceal, or distort information. The decision, which reversed the $425,000 jury verdict in favor of Fox Television journalist Jane Akre, declares that no law is being broken if false information is given in a television broadcast.

In the August 2000 trial, Akre charged she was pressured by management and lawyers to air what she knew and documented to be false information in a story about the use of growth hormones in dairy cows. The six-person jury was unanimous in concluding that Akre was fired because she threatened to report the station for pressuring her to report the false information.

Fox’s attorneys’ arguments failed on three separate occasions, in front of three different judges, to have the case dismissed since there is no hard, fast, and written rule against deliberate distortion of the news. The attorneys argued that the First Amendment gives broadcasters the right to lie or deliberately distort news reports on the airwaves.

In a written decision, the Court held that the Federal Communications Commission position against news distortion is only a “policy,” not a promulgated law, rule, or regulation.



For the opinion in this case, officially known as New World Communications of Tampa, Inc. d.b.a WTVT-TV (appellant) v. Jane Akre (appellee), case No. 2D01-529 of the District Court of Appeal of Florida, 2nd District, see: the pdf file

For more background on the case, see www.foxbghsuit.com


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This story was published on April 4, 2003.