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News Media Needs Warning Labels?

Should some mainstream news media programs be required to display Warning labels or Warning Messages prior to and after broadcasts?

Some might consider warning labels for news programs a draconian measure to protect public welfare, others might consider it a necessary evil especially since after 2003, when US courts made it official that FOX News was legally protected whilst misinforming the public. Sadly warning messages or disclaimers are probably necessary since not everyone qualifies under the “reasonable man theory”, and it is obvious that a large percentage of the population believes what they read in print or what’s being told to them by an attractive TV news presenter. Additional efforts need to implemented in an effort to enhance the public’s awareness that some leading News and Entertainment Programs are more closely related to opinion pieces rather than researched, verified or peer-reviewed scientific statements of facts.

Warning labels help keep the public safe

Warning labels help keep the public safe

As a social experiment I challenge you to take a poll among a few people that you know and ask how many believe in the validity of the news or facts told to them from their most common information sources and do they believe that the information they receive would qualify as being “Fair and Balanced” and would remain so after being subjected to unbiased scrutiny and investigation? I venture to suggest that once the results of such casual polls are known many others will soon see the need for informational warning labels for several News broadcasts and entertainment programs. For example BBC’s Top Gear is considered by many to being a valid car review show (sponsored by an oil company) that has a history of distorting information about hybrids and electric cars.

Suggested warning label for some types of News/Entertainement programs

Suggested warning label for some types of News/Entertainement programs

Personally I find it to be an immoral act and a potential crime against humanity to willfully distort facts, but since First Amendment Constitutional rights have been awarded to Fox News affiliate WTVT in a Florida court of law (NEW WORLD COMMUNICATIONS OF TAMPA INC WTVT TV v. AKRE February, 14 2003). That precedent according to some now gives FOX News a little more legal wiggle room to say or omit what they wish so that they are now more free since winning the case and now have a pseudo legal right to lie, distort, and mislead the public as long as they don’t say anything that could be considered liable about a person or corporate entity. The person or legal entity distinction is made because in those cases they have the legal ability to sue them for libel.

Non-legal entities such as: the environment, climate change/global warming, animals, food, education, non-incorporated groups of people, test results, even science facts are not entities under the law, and thus can not sue the News Agency for lies or distorting the truth, so they can pretty much say whatever they want with impunity.

The Florida case was originally one of wrongful termination that came to court because a reporter Jane Akre and her husband Steve Wilson was fired by Fox News for refusing to participate in the fabrication of lie. The reports were part of the Fox “Investigators” team at WTVT in Tampa Bay, Florida that were investigating bovine growth hormone (BGH), a controversial substance at the time (December 1996) which is manufactured by Monsanto Corporation. According to Jane Akre and Steve Wilson Fox News executives, editors and the their lawyers wanted the reporters to use statements and versions of their story that were provided by representatives from Monsanto Corporation. These statements directly contradicted the facts discovered by the reporters.

Akre and Wilson were both eventually fired by Fox for refusing to broadcast the revised story and they threatened to report the WTVT affiliate to the FCC.

In August of 2000 Akre was awarded $425K in damages by a Florida jury for being wrongfully fired as a whistle-blower. FOX appealed that decision and in February 2003 the Florida Second District Court of Appeals overturned the settlement, because the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) policy against falsification was just policy and by definition did not qualify as a “law, rule, or regulation”, which is a basic requirement of the Whistleblower law.

FOX lawyers did not dispute that company executives pressured her to broadcast a story that was contrary to her known facts, they simply maintained that FOX News had a right to do so. After Akre lost the case FOX legal teams filed to obtain 1.7 million dollars from Akre and Wilson for trial fees and costs.

Watch a Video about How Fox News Killed the Monsanto Milk Story

To fix this kind of injustice the FCC needs to have a new legal mandate that specifically forbids reporters from participating in the dissemination of falsehoods and misleading stories. The FCC obviously doesn’t have enough teeth if all it can do is create policy and doesn’t have the political will or power to shut down or revoke the broadcast license of these large media companies even after they have publicly reserved the right to lie to their audience as stated during public court cases. Such business practices do little to serve the public interest and goes against the idea of a free press, which is one of the checks and balances to counter a corrupt government or legal system.

Surprising that are no federal “laws” that exist which require that the truth be told, as that would go against freedom of speech. But like freedom of speech there are statues which place limits on free speech such as being able to yell fire in a theater, so one can say what they wish as long as such speech does not interfere with the rights of others. The question remains what individual rights are being put in jeopardy when falsehoods are being misrepresenting as facts?

At a bare minimum a Warning Label needs to be added before and after say a FOX News broadcast not unlike the warning labels which are applied to the tobacco or alcohol industries. At least that way a more truthful message is delivered in addition to the FOX News repeating tagline of “Fair and Balanced” is also put in the public’s ear so eventually understand that FOX news, and MSNBC etc are entertainment shows and they are just expressing their Constitutional Right to say whatever they wish, which may be contrary to known facts, truths or scientific consensus. That is the least they should be required to do since they have been given the ability to use public airwaves to broadcast a message or promote a reality that supports their particular political demographic or the financial interests of their advertisers.

Michael R. Taylor - FDA's Deputy Commissioner

Michael R. Taylor – FDA’s Deputy Commissioner

Another example of why these Warning labels are still necessary I bet you a ear of GMO corn that you did not hear via the mainstream media News recently that President Obama just made Michael R. Taylor the head of the FDA–a man who was recently an executive Vice President for Monsanto Corporation? If you want real news you might need to start watching more documentaries such as The Future of Food (2004) and The World According to Monsanto (2008) and “The Corporation” (2003).

References:
District Court of Appeal of Florida, Second District.
NEW WORLD COMMUNICATIONS OF TAMPA INC WTVT TV v. AKRE

https://kenburridge.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/NEW-WORLD-COMMUNICATIONS-OF-TAMPA-INC-WTVT-TV-v.-AKRE.pdf

Facebook group: Supporting Warning Labels for News Media
https://www.facebook.com/supportnewsmediawarninglabels

 

Green-Eco-EV News Reporting by Ken Green Burridge

kenneth green burridge

Kenneth Burridge test-drives electric Nissan LEAF in Melbourne Australia

EV of the Year Judge, independent green journalist, photographer, author and sustainability activist that has published over 1000 articles. Mr Burridge’s travels have taken him to over 30 countries and 300+ major cities. He is originally from the USA, but has been residing in Australia for the last seven years. Connect to Ken Burridge on: Twitter, facebook, Google+Linked in or website

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