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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Editorial independence is the freedom of editors to make decisions without interference from the owners of a publication. Editorial independence is tested, for instance, if a newspaper runs articles that may be unpopular with its advertising customers.

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Related controversies

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Fox television and Monsanto Company

Fox television affiliate WTVT/Fox13 in Tampa, Florida was sued by Steve Wilson and Jane Akre, two former employees who were fired in relation to a conflict over reporting information that they uncovered about rBST, a type of "bovine growth hormone" called Bovine somatotropin. The reporters found documents from Monsanto, which showed that they failed to turn over health concern information to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about rBST. The journalists wrote a story about the documents that were uncovered in 1996 about the potential for human health risks of rBST, and the fact that the FDA never received this information. The station began publicizing the upcoming broadcast of the story. Monsanto, the manufacturer of rBST, expressed "concern" about the story to FOX. Monsanto is affiliated with top FOX advertisers, and threatened FOX with "consequences". The station asked the journalists to change the story. However, the journalists refused. FOX then offered to pay the reporters to keep quiet, drawing up a contract to never reveal any information about rBST, not even to their children's school. The journalists refused to sign the contracts. The station fired the journalists, and refused to air their report.[1][2][3] This story is featured at length in the documentaries The Corporation and Outfoxed.

After a five-week trial, which ended August 18, 2000, Akre was awarded $425,000 in damages; Wilson was awarded nothing. The jury found that Fox's actions were in retaliation for Akre's refusal to report "a false, distorted, or slanted story,".[2][3] The jury did not find, however, enough evidence to determine if the station bowed to pressure from Monsanto to alter the reporting.[2]

Fox appealed this ruling and prevailed on February 14, 2003, when an appeals court issued a ruling reversing the jury. The court's basis was that FCC policies on news agencies reporting the truth are not legally binding; and, as such, Fox had no legal requirement to report the truth in a news story.[3]

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References


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