Reporters attack former employer’s license


Fox O&O WTVT Tampa FL has survived a license challenge brought by two of its former employees, reporters Jane Akre and Steve Wilson, who accused the station of distorting the news. The petition was filed 4/25/05 following a lawsuit on the same charges filed 4/2/98 under Florida whistle-blower statutes. The reporters claim their story on synthetic bovine growth hormone (BGH) was scuttled due to concerns it may have offended Monsanto, the maker of the BGH, and that a subsequent story on the topic contained falsehoods.

The station vigorously defended its journalistic decisions. And the FCC noted that many of the facts surrounding BGH are a matter of opinion, and in fact the issue remains controversial to this day. In any case, the Commission said that it has "neither the expertise nor the desire to look over the shoulder of broadcast journalists and inquire why a particular piece of information was reported or not reported." Although the FCC admonished the station for a minor public file infraction, its license was renewed.

SmartMedia observation: The FCC simply is not a useful tool for disputing the program content of a broadcast station, and that is as it should be. We would be worried if the FCC had hired a stable of expert animal husbandry consultants and tried to get to the bottom of this nine year old case.