>I don't think it is any secret that the media can 'selectively' cover
>stories as it sees appropriate, or not appropriate, even when they have
>full knowledge of the information.
> From Agribusiness Examiner #52 (Quoting from http://www.foxbghsuit.com)
>The AGRIBUSINESS EXAMINER Issue #
>52 October 19, 1999
>Monitoring Corporate Agribusiness From a Public Interest Perspective
>A.V. Krebs <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>FOX NEWS HIRES CLINTON IMPEACHMENT LAWYERS TO FIGHT TV REPORTERS JANE AKRE
>& STEVE WILSON
>Justice delayed is justice denied, as investigative reporters Jane Akre
>and Steve Wilson are learning from their suit against their former
>employer Rupert Murdoch's FOX 13 TV station in Tampa Bay, Florida in
>which they are claiming they were fired for refusing to broadcast
>statements which they considered to be untrue about bovine growth hormone
>(rBGH),which is manufactured by Monsanto, a major FOX advertiser.
>Despite a trial court judge Gaspar Ficcarotta, who clearly does not want
>to preside in the case, a battery of high-priced Washington, D.C. lawyers
>defending FOX, and the nation's media which refuses to report their story,
>much less support their freedom of speech rights, Akre and Wilson have
>scored some welcome preliminary victories in their suit.
>While they have managed to win a series of continuances, FOX has
>nevertheless three times unsuccessfully sought to have the suit dismissed,
>the latest effort coming prior to the scheduled October 11 trial date
>which has now been again postponed indefinitely.
>In August, attorney William McDaniels of the Washington firm Williams &
>Connolly filed a mountain of papers along with a Motion For Partial
>Summary Judgment in the case. He argued the journalists' whistleblower
>claim should be thrown out primarily because only the Federal
>Communications Commission (FCC) has the right to pass judgment on whether
>a broadcast licensee deliberately tried to slant the news. His motion was
>During the pretrial process both sides have exchanged lists of witnesses
>expected to testify at the trial. Included among the journalists'
>witnesses is consumer activist Ralph Nader who has agreed to come to
>Florida to testify as an expert about the public interest, stressing that
>broadcasters' use of the public airwaves mandate that they act in the
>public interest, especially in the news reports they broadcast. FOX
>attorneys have indicated informally that they will do their best to block
>Attorney John Chamblee who represents reporter Jane Akre argued against
>the FOX dismissal motion and provided an equally-thorough written brief to
>the Court. The "weight of the evidence" submitted to the judge on this
>issue alone is more than 20 pounds. Wilson, who has represented himself
>throughout most of the pretrial proceedings, also presented an oral
>argument that the dispute was much more than an honest editorial
>disagreement as FOX has repeatedly claimed.
>In Florida as in many other jurisdictions, there is a very high standard
>to be met before denying a party an opportunity to try a claim before a
>jury. A similar Motion by FOX was denied months ago by Judge Robert
>Bonanno as was a Motion To Dismiss the claim shortly after it was filed.
>Besides Williams & Connolly attorney McDaniels (who tried the Lt. William
>Calley, Jr. Vietnam My Lai massacre case) and Alicia Marti, a junior
>member of the firm and Pat Anderson and Tom McGowan of the St. Petersburg,
>Florida law firm of Rahdert, Anderson, McGowan & Steele, FOX attorneys
>include Gary Roberts (in -house counsel) and Ted Russell (junior member).
>New York's Squadron, Ellenoff's Clifford Thau will represent Roger Ailes
>and in St. Louis, Missouri Steve Rovak with the law firm Sonnenschein,
>Nath, and Rosenthal will represent Monsanto.
>President Clinton's personal attorney David Kendall of the Williams &
>Connolly firm is also representing FOX's interests in the matter. His
>involvement came to light at the deposition of St. Petersburg lawyer
>Patricia Anderson who produced a recent letter from Kendall to Monsanto
>lawyer John Walsh. It was Walsh's letters to FOX News chief Roger Ailes
>that kindled the whole dispute in early 1997.
>It was also Williams & Connolly who recently represented both Bill Clinton
>in his Senate impeachment trial and Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) in the
>Department of Justice's anti-trust price fixing suit.
>Commenting on the addition of Williams & Connolly to the FOX defense team
>reporter Steve Wilson observes, "I don't think you pay those kind of
>lawyers that kind of money to second-chair a case. I suspect the loss of
>their summary judgment motion was the final straw for the local team. With
>the case now headed for trial, it seems FOX decided it could use a little
>more juice. Jane and I have every confidence our own attorneys --- John
>Chamblee and Steve Wenzel --- will continue to do a superb job with this
>FOX TV BOWS TO MONSANTO THREAT SCRAPS NEWS SERIES EXPOSING USE OF rBGH
>The plight of the one-time Tampa, Florida TV investigative-reporter
>husband-wife team Jane Akre and Steve Wilson and their unsuccessful
>efforts to air a carefully researched report on Monsanto's rBGH and its
>potential dangers to cows and the nation's milk supply vividly illustrates
>how the "power of the press" is rapidly being preempted by corporate
>rBGH is a bovine growth hormone designed and produced by Monsanto to
>increase the milk production of cows by roughly 33%. Although approved by
>the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1993, the artificial
>hormone has been linked to cancer and is banned throughout Europe and
>unapproved in several other countries because of human health concerns.
>The reporters never-broadcast report also revealed how Florida
>supermarkets quietly reneged on promises not to sell milk from treated
>cows until the hormone gained widespread acceptance by consumers. All
>major supermarkets now admit rBGH has found its way into virtually all of
>Florida's milk supply.
>Immediately prior to their attempt to present a four-part series on the
>possible health dangers of rBGH on FOX Television's WTVT (Channel 13)
>station in Tampa Bay, Florida in February, 1997, Akre and Wilson learned
>that FOX had ordered the series not to be shown. The order came after the
>TV network received letters from Monsanto expressing "dissatisfaction"
>with the report.
>With a certain touch of irony none other than multi-billionaire Bill
>Gates, Microsoft Corp. chairman, recently observed in a BBC interview
>that he thinks if anyone wants to take over the world, it's the man who
>accused him of wanting to --- media tycoon Rupert Murdoch. "He's hiding
>behind me. He's your man," Gates declared.
>Gates says running Microsoft is "not like owning a newspaper," referring
>to Murdoch's News Corp. empire, which includes newspapers in the United
>States, England and Australia, as well as the 20th Century Fox movie
>studio, FOX Television, the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team and
>satellite TV networks on several continents.
>It was when Murdoch gained U.S. citizenship he celebrated by adding 13
>major U.S. stations, including Tampa Bay's WTVT, to his FOX network. FOX,
>which is part of Murdoch's vast conglomerate, then owned 22 U.S. stations,
>reaching more than 50% of American viewers
>"Someone who owns a newspaper can pick up the phone to the editor and say
>`run headlines I like,'" Gates says.
>In a stunning illustration of Gates' observation the New York Times
>Bernard Weinraub reported yesterday from Hollywood that 20th Century Fox
>has stopped all movie studio advertising indefinitely in The Hollywood
>Reporter, a movie trade daily, a move intended to damage the trade paper
>financially. While executives at the studio, which is owned by News Corp.,
>insisted that the decision was based on long-standing unhappiness with the
>way the trade paper was covering FOX, editors at The Hollywood Reporter,
>and just about everyone else in town, according to Weinraub, said that the
>reason for the economic boycott was simple: studio anger at the caustic
>comments in the newspaper about the new FOX film "Fight Club," which
>opened last Friday.
>The movie is a violent fantasy about men who pummel each other and go to
>physical extremes because they view their lives as miserable. "What
>enraged FOX executives were two Hollywood Reporter articles about the
>movie in the last two weeks. One brief article, written by Anita M. Busch,
>the newspaper's editor, and Thom Geier, a reporter, said that the openings
>of the film in Los Angeles and New York had been disastrous. Producers and
>agents were quoted, anonymously, as saying the big-budget movie was
>`loathsome,' `absolutely indefensible' and `deplorable on every level,'"
>FOX 13 GENERAL MANAGER TO AKRE & WILSON: "WE PAID $3 BILLION FOR THESE TV
>STATIONS. WE WILL DECIDED WHAT THE NEWS IS. THE NEWS IS WHAT WE TELL YOU
>What makes the Jane Akre and Steve Wilson story so outrageous is that WTVT
>and FOX Television did not just order the reporters' rBGH series scraped,
>like print and media outlets sometimes do when they deem stories not in
>their own best financial interests, but actually ordered Akre and Wilson
>to change facts in the story, omit sources, etc.
>In their two-month investigation Akre and Wilson raised a number of human
>and animal health concerns as they found that Florida grocers had broken
>their pledge not to buy milk from hormone-injected herds. Akre even
>photographed cows being injected with the rBGH Posilac at seven out of
>seven local dairies chosen at random.
>The news managers at WTVT, now known as FOX 13, were sufficiently
>impressed to buy thousands of dollars of radio advertising in the run-up
>to the scheduled broadcast, on February 24, 1997. At the last minute,
>however, Monsanto lawyer John Walsh approached Roger Ailes, head of FOX
>News in New York stating that the program was "inaccurate" and
>"unsubstantiated." Within hours, the documentary was pulled "for further
>The journalists' court documents say that they were "concerned about the
>threatening nature of the Monsanto letter, particularly the part which
>read `There is a lot at stake in what is going on in Florida, not only for
>Monsanto, but also for FOX News and its owner'."
>Not surprising, Monsanto is a client of Actmedia, a major advertising
>company owned by Murdoch. FOX stations throughout the country sell
>commercial time to Monsanto for products such as Roundup, its widely-used
>herbicide, and foods and drinks containing NutraSweet, the leading brand
>of aspartame artificial sweetener.
>According to the journalists' lawsuit, the general manager of FOX 13, a
>former investigative reporter, and the station's lawyers scrutinized the
>broadcast frame by frame and found that "nothing in the [Monsanto] letter
>raised any credible claim to the truthfulness, accuracy, or fairness of
>the[documentary] reports." The station then set a new date for broadcast,
>a week after the initial one.
>But Monsanto's lawyers now sent Ailes, who served as director of media
>relations for Republican president George Bush, a second and more hostile
>letter, and the Tampa station pulled the rBGH broadcast again, this time
>Soon afterwards, FOX fired Tampa Bay's general manager and news manager.
>And the new management offered Akre and Wilson more than $150,000 in
>exchange for their resignations and a promise not to publish details about
>Posilac or how the stories were handled by FOX.
>The pair refused. Likewise, the journalists claim that the new managers
>threatened to fire them if they did not include information that they
>believed to be false: that milk from Posilac-injected cows is the same and
>as safe as milk from untreated cows.
>Monsanto insisted that this statement be aired. But the journalists
>presented scientific evidence suggesting this was not true. FOX 13,
>however, having taken legal advice, eventually sided with Monsanto and
>when the journalists refused to back down, it suspended them for
>"insubordination," then terminated their contracts in December 1997. Six
>months later, the station hired a less experienced reporter to prepare
>another broadcast, one that contained the Monsanto statement.
>The husband-and-wife investigative team, however, have blown the whistle
>on the station and FOX and its corporate bosses in a lawsuit claiming the
>station preferred to coverup their story rather than broadcast it honestly
>In supporting papers filed with the court, the journalists say WTVT
>General Manager David Boylan refused to kill the story for fear the
>viewing public would learn the station yielded to pressure from special
>interests. Instead, Wilson and Akre allege, Boylan ordered the reporters
>to broadcast a version which contained demonstrably false information and
>he threatened to fire them both within 48 hours if they refused.
>Akre-Wilson relate that at one point Boylan told the reporters, "he wasn't
>interested" in looking at the story himself and pressured them to follow
>the company's lawyer's directions. "Are you sure this is a hill you're
>willing to die on," he told them. Later, they claim, he stressed, "We paid
>$3 billion for these television stations. We will decide what the news is.
>The news is what we tell you it is."
>In their suit the reporters are charging in detail FOX television, owned
>by Rupert Murdoch's multi-national News Corp, ("News Corporation is the
>only vertically integrated media company on a global scale"- 1997 Annual
>Report) strongly pressured by Monsanto, violated the state's whistleblower
>act by firing them for refusing to broadcast false reports and threatening
>to report the station's conduct to the Federal Communications Commission
>Their complaint also claims the station violated their contracts in
>dismissing them for those reasons and it seeks a ruling from the court to
>determine to what extent the reporters' contractual obligations limit
>their ability to speak freely about the rBGH issue. The journalists filed
>the suit after struggling with FOX executives for most of 1997 to get the
>story on the air, submitting some 73 drafts of scripts all found
>"unacceptable" by the station.
>"Every editor has the right to kill a story and any honest reporter will
>tell you that happens from time to time when a news organization's self
>interest wins out over the public interest," said Wilson, the station's
>former senior investigative reporter who helped Akre produce the story and
>is now one of the plaintiffs.
>"But when media managers who are not journalists have so little regard for
>the public trust that they actually order reporters to broadcast false
>information and slant the truth to curry the favor or avoid the wrath of
>special interests as happened here, that is the day any responsible
>reporter has to stand up and say, `No way!' That is what Jane and I are
>saying with this lawsuit," Wilson added.
>While Akre and Wilson's situation, has been near totally ignored by the
>nation's major media, with the exception of articles in Penthouse and The
>Nation magazines, the team has nevertheless been presenting their story in
>full detail at a special Internet web site that can be viewed at
>*** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material
>is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest
>in receiving the included information for research and educational
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