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“[Censored] offers devastating evidence of the dumbing-down of main-stream news in America. . . . Required reading for broadcasters, journalists, and well-informed citizens.” —Los Angeles Times
“For ages, I’ve dreamed of a United States where Project Censored isn’t necessary, where these crucial stories and defining issues are on the front page of the New York Times, the cover of Time, and in heavy rotation on CNN. That world still doesn’t exist, but we always have Project Censored’s yearly book to pull together the most important things the corporate media ignored, missed, or botched.” –Russ Kick, author of You Are Being Lied To, Everything You Know Is Wrong, and the New York Times bestselling series The Graphic Canon.
“Hot news, cold truths, utterly uncensored.” —Greg Palast
“Project Censored interrogates the present in the same way that Oliver Stone and I tried to interrogate the past in our Untold History of the United States. It not only shines a penetrating light on the American Empire and all its deadly, destructive, and deceitful actions, it does so at a time when the Obama administration is mounting a fierce effort to silence truth-tellers and whistleblowers. Project Censored provides the kind of fearless and honest journalism we so desperately need in these dangerous times.” —Peter Kuznick, professor of history, American University, and coauthor, with Oliver Stone, of The Untold History of the United States
“One of the most significant media research projects in the country.” —I. F. Stone
“Project Censored continues to be an invaluable resource in exposing and highlighting shocking stories that are routinely minimized or ignored by the corporate media. The vital nature of this work is underscored by this year’s NSA leaks. The world needs more brave whistle blowers and independent journalists in the service of reclaiming democracy and challenging the abuse of power. Project Censored stands out for its commitment to such work.” —Deepa Kumar, author of Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire and associate professor of Media Studies and Middle Eastern Studies at Rutgers University
“Project Censored shines a spotlight on news that an informed public must have . . . a vital contribution to our democratic process.” —Rhoda H. Karpatkin, president, Consumer’s Union
“The staff of Project Censored presents their annual compilation of the previous year’s 25 stories most overlooked by the mainstream media along with essays about censorship and its consequences. The stories include an 813% rise in hate and anti-government groups since 2008, human rights violations by the US Border Patrol, and Israeli doctors injecting Ethiopian immigrants with birth control without their consent. Other stories focus on the environment, like the effects of fracking and Monsantos GMO seeds. The writers point out misinformation and outright deception in the media, including CNN relegating factual accounts to the “opinion” section and the whitewashing of Margaret Thatcher’s career following her death in 2013, unlike Hugo Chavez, who was routinely disparaged in the coverage following his death. One essay deals with the proliferation of “Junk Food News,” in which “CNN and Fox News devoted more time to ‘Gangnam Style’ than the renewal of Uganda’s ‘Kill the Gays’ law.” Another explains common media manipulation tactics and outlines practices to becoming a more engaged, free-thinking news consumer or even citizen journalist. Rob Williams remarks on Hollywood’s “deep and abiding role as a popular propaganda provider” via Argo and Zero Dark Thirty. An expose on working conditions in Chinese Apple factories is brutal yet essential reading. This book is evident of Project Censored’s profoundly important work in educating readers on current events and the skills needed to be a critical thinker.” -Publisher’s Weekly said about Censored 2014 (Oct.)
“In another home run for Project Censored, Censored 2013 shows how the American public has been bamboozled, snookered, and dumbed down by the corporate media. It is chock-full of ‘ah-ha’ moments where we understand just how we’ve been fleeced by banksters, stripped of our civil liberties, and blindly led down a path of never-ending war.” –Medea Benjamin, author of Drone Warfare, cofounder of Global Exchange and CODEPINK.
“Activist groups like Project Censored . . . are helping to build the media democracy movement. We have to challenge the powers that be and rebuild media from the bottom up.” —Amy Goodman
“Censored 2014 is a clarion call for truth telling. Not only does this volume highlight fearless speech in fateful times, it connect the dots between the key issues we face, lauds our whistleblowers and amplifies their voices, and shines light in the dark places of our government that most need exposure.” –Daniel Ellsberg, The Pentagon Papers
“At a time when the need for independent journalism and for media outlets unaffiliated with and untainted by the government and corporate sponsors is greater than ever, Project Censored has created a context for reporting the complete truths in all matters that matter. . . . It is therefore left to us to find sources for information we can trust. . . . It is in this task that we are fortunate to have an ally like Project Cen-sored.” —Dahr Jamail
Buy it, read it, act on it. Our future depends on the knowledge this col-lection of suppressed stories allows us.” —San Diego Review
“[Censored] should be affixed to the bulletin boards in every newsroom in America. And, perhaps read aloud to a few publishers and television executives.” —Ralph Nader
“Most journalists in the United States believe the press here is free. That grand illusion only helps obscure the fact that, by and large, the US corporate press does not report what’s really going on, while tuning out, or laughing off, all those who try to do just that. Americans–now more than ever–need those outlets that do labor to report some truth. Project Censored is not just among the bravest, smartest, and most rigorous of those outlets, but the only one that’s wholly focused on those stories that the corporate press ignores, downplays, and/or distorts. This latest book is therefore a must read for anyone who cares about this country, its tottering economy, and–most important– what’s now left of its democracy.” –Mark Crispin Miller, author, professor of media ecology, New York University.
“Those who read and support Project Censored are in the know.” —Cynthia McKinney
“Project Censored is one of the organizations that we should listen to, to be assured that our newspapers and our broadcasting outlets are practicing thorough and ethical journalism.” —Walter Cronkite
“Project Censored brings to light some of the most important stories of the year that you never saw or heard about. This is your chance to find out what got buried.” –Diane Ravitch, author of The Death and Life of the Great American School System.

11. The Media Can Legally Lie

CMW REPORT, Spring 2003
Title: “Court Ruled That Media Can Legally Lie”
Author: Liane Casten

ORGANIC CONSUMER ASSOCIATION, March 7, 2004
Title: “Florida Appeals Court Orders Akre-Wilson Must Pay Trial Costs for $24.3 Billion Fox Television; Couple Warns Journalists of Danger to Free Speech, Whistle Blower Protection”
Author: Al Krebs

Faculty Evaluator: Liz Burch, Ph.D.
Student Researcher: Sara Brunner

In February 2003, a Florida Court of Appeals unanimously agreed with an assertion by FOX News that there is no rule against distorting or falsifying the news in the United States.

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.

According to Akre and Wilson, the station was initially very excited about the series. But within a week, Fox executives and their attorneys wanted the reporters to use statements from Monsanto representatives that the reporters knew were false and to make other revisions to the story that were in direct conflict with the facts. 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.(Project Censored #12 1997)

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 when she refused to broadcast (in the jury’s words) “a false, distorted or slanted story” about the widespread use of BGH in dairy cows. They further maintained that she deserved protection under Florida’s whistle blower law. Akre was awarded a $425,000 settlement. Inexplicably, however, the court decided that Steve Wilson, her partner in the case, was ruled not wronged by the same actions taken by FOX.

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.

During their appeal, FOX asserted that there are no written rules against distorting news in the media. They argued that, under the First Amendment, broadcasters have the right to lie or deliberately distort news reports on public airwaves. Fox attorneys did not dispute Akre’s claim that they pressured her to broadcast a false story, they simply maintained that it was their right to do so. After the appeal verdict WTVT general manager Bob Linger commented, “It’s vindication for WTVT, and we’re very pleased… It’s the case we’ve been making for two years. She never had a legal claim.”

UPDATE BY LIANE CASTEN: If we needed any more proof that we now live in an upside down world, the saga of Jane Akre, along with her husband, Steve Wilson, could not be more compelling.

Akre and Wilson won the first legal round. Akre was awarded $425,000 in a jury trial with well-crafted arguments for their wrongful termination as whistleblowers. And in the process, they also won the prestigious “Goldman Environmental” prize for their outstanding efforts. However, FOX turned around and appealed the verdict. This time, FOX won; the original verdict was overturned in the Appellate Court of Florida’s Second District. 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. Thus, said the court, Akre-Wilson never qualified as whistleblowers.

What is more appalling are the five major media outlets that filed briefs of Amici Curiae- or friend of FOX – to support FOX’s position: Belo Corporation, 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 Amici position was “If upheld by this court, the decision would convert personnel actions arising from disagreements over editorial policy into litigation battles in which state courts would interpret and apply federal policies that raise significant and delicate constitutional and statutory issues.” After all, Amici argued, 40 states now have Whistleblower laws, imagine what would happen if employees in those 40 states followed the same course of action?

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.

In addition, the five “friends” referred to FCC policies. The five admit they are “vitally interested in the outcome of this appeal, which will determine the extent to which state whistleblower laws may incorporate federal policies that touch on sensitive questions of editorial judgment.”

Anyone concerned with media must hear the alarm bells. The Bush FCC, under Michael Powell’s leadership, has shown repeatedly that greater media consolidation is encouraged, that liars like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter are perfectly acceptable, that to refer to the FCC interpretation of “editorial judgment” is to potentially throw out any pretense at editorial accuracy if the “accuracy” harms a large corporation and its bottom line. This is our “Brave New Media”, the corporate media that protects its friends and now lies, unchallenged if need be.

The next assault: the Fox station then filed a series of motions in a Tampa Circuit Court seeking more than $1.7 million in trial fees and costs from both Akre and Wilson. The motions were filed on March 30 and April 16 by Fox attorney, William McDaniels-who bills his client at $525 to $550 an hour. The costs are to cover legal fees and trial costs incurred by FOX in defending itself at the first trial. The issue may be heard by the original trial judge, Ralph Steinberg-a logical step in the whole process. However, Judge Steinberg must come out of retirement if he is to hear this, so the hearing, set for June 1, may go to a new judge, Judge Maye.

Akre and her husband feel the stress. “There is no justification for the five stations not to support us,” she said. “Attaching legal fees to whistleblowers is unprecedented, absurd. The ‘business’ of broadcasting trumps it all. These news organizations must ensure they are worthy of the public trust while they use OUR airwaves, free of charge. Public trust is alarmingly absent here.”

Indeed. This is what our corporate media, led by such as Rupert Murdoch, have come to. How low we have fallen.

Jane Akre and be reached at: jakre@bellsouth.net.

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