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September 23, 1997

 

Dear Dave,

Last week, I received one of those yellow postal notices of attempt to deliver certified mail. The notice indicated the sender was a California woman I know but after signing an authorization to deliver it, what I received was a letter from Carolyn Forrest. As you must know, her letter advises me of WTVT’s intention to exercise an option to cancel my employment contract effective December 2, 1997.

Although Ms. Forrest’s letter indicates the decision was made "without cause", I believe the actual cause of your decision is my continuing objections and refusal to capitulate to your demands that I take part in a BGH broadcast so distorted as to violate the Communications Act of 1934 and FCC rules and policy which implement the law.

You will recall when we met in your office April 16—the day you threatened to fire me and Jane within 48 hours for "insubordination"—we told you that we knew broadcasting a deliberately distorted news report was an FCC violation. We made it clear to you at that time if you persisted in a course of conduct aimed at coercing us into broadcasting a report we knew to be slanted, or face the loss of our family income, we were fully prepared to report the matter to the Commission.

Subsequently, as you know, you did not follow through with action to terminate us. Instead you sought to resolve the dispute with a proposed financial settlement presented to us May 6th. We rejected your offer because, as I said in my letter of May 28th:

 

  • "Getting these (BGH) broadcasts on the air and making this important information widely available to our viewers is my primary commitment. I place it even above the opportunity for personal benefit by the terms you have suggested. It is why I have worked far in excess of my contractually obligated 10 hours a week with no additional compensation for many, many weeks. And it is why I must respectfully decline your offer at this time."
  • Since then, we have in good faith produced many more script versions to try and satisfy what have been claimed to be only "legal concerns". After 56 re-writes, including change after change which has adversely effected the balance and fairness of the piece, the report is still not satisfactory to your counsel and you have moved to make good on the termination threat you made last Spring.

    Waiting for a contract window is a thinly veiled effort to disguise firing me for refusing to go along with your desire to slant the story in favor of a corporate giant who has threatened you with "dire consequences" for telling

    the truth on television. In my opinion, that’s not only bad conduct as a trustee of the public airwaves, it is illegal as an employer.

    Consequently, I have asked legal counsel to prepare an action asserting a claim that your retaliatory personnel action as a result of my refusal to participate in a deliberately distorted broadcast violates my rights under the law.

    In the landmark decision issued by the FCC in the wake of complaints against a CBS news broadcast, the Commission said:

     

  • "Rigging or slanting the news is a most heinous act against the public interest—indeed there is no act more harmful to the public’s ability to handle its affairs. In all cases where we may appropriately do so, we shall act to protect the public interest in this important respect."
  • In the same decision, the Commission said:

     

  • "…if it is asserted by a newsman that he was directed by the licensee to slant the news, that would raise serious questions as to the character qualifications of this licensee. Such cases must be thoroughly explored, and it would be inappropriate to renew the station’s license pending resolution of such an issue."
  • The Commission has committed itself to investigate all such cases and seemed to express particular interest in cases…

     

  • "…when the extrinsic evidence of possible deliberate distortion or staging of the news which is brought to our attention involves the licensee, including its principals, top management, or news management."
  • I believe the large volume of scripts, letters, memos, tapes, and notes of all the meetings and conversations related to the BGH story provide ample evidence of my planned complaint.

    I fully expect to complete the second year of my contract under the terms of our agreement and resolve our differences with regard to the BGH story so that it can be broadcast as soon as possible. I will await your further instructions and would welcome a discussion with you at your first opportunity.

    Regards,

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    Steve Wilson

    Mr. David Boylan
    WTVT Television
    3213 Kennedy Boulevard
    Tampa, FL 33631-3113

     

    By Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested



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