PETITION TO DENY RENEWAL OF FOX STATION'S LICENSE - Mitch Perry

01/04/05

Last night on the Evening News, WMNF reported on the 2 former WTVT Fox 13 reporters who have filed a petition with the Federal Communications Commission to deny renewal of the station's license for ``intentionally airing false and distorted news reports'' in 1997.

Investigative reporters Jane Akre and Steve Wilson, say Fox 13 violated the public trust by ordering them to put a favorable slant on news reports they were preparing about a growth hormone given to dairy cattle in Florida.

The married couple, who now live in Jacksonville, say Fox-owned WTVT feared a lawsuit from hormone maker Monsanto because their reports would have raised questions about health hazards.

The couple say they refused to alter the story and were fired. The station eventually aired a growth hormone story the couple say contained ``lies and distortions.'' The couple sued Fox 13, and in 2000, a jury originally found for Akre but not for Steve Wilson…..Later an appellate court overruled The Hillsborough Court, and ordered Wilson’s $425,000 reward NOT be granted.

Fox 13 Vice President and General Manager Robert Linger said the station had just received the petition and will answer it within the month (roll tape#1 o.q.�by the Courts�)

In August 2000, a jury awarded Akre $425,000, saying the station retaliated against her for threatening to blow the whistle. The jury said Wilson, who now is a reporter for a Detroit TV station, had not been wronged.

In 2003, a state appeals court overturned the jury award, saying Akre failed to show WTVT had violated any state laws. Wilson contends that, in effect, the court found that it's not against the law to distort the news. It is a violation of FCC rules…..

When asked if he thinks the 2 reporters, recently featured in the Canadian documentary “The Corportation�, are using the FCC petition to keep their names in the news, Fox 13 General Manager Robert Linger was not willing to comment (roll tape#2 o.q.�we’re responding to the Petition�)

This is the first time Fox 13’s license has been up for renewal since the controversy, which made national and even international news back in 1997. In 2000, consumer advocate Ralph Nader traveled to Tampa to testify for the reporters, discussing a provision of the FCC Charter which prohibits distortion in news.(roll tape#3 o.q.�makes them something more than a business.

Fox 13’s Robert Linger says the station has 30 days to respond, and will do so before that deadline occurs.

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