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September 23, 1997

 

Dear Dave,

As you know, the terms of my employment at Channel 13 are set forth in a written agreement dated November 18, 1996. Paragraph 2-C states, in part:

  • "The Company reserves the right to terminate this Agreement without cause during the period commencing September 1 ending September 21, provided that if the company elects within that period to terminate the Agreement, the effective date of such termination shall be December 2, 1997 and the Station shall notify the Employee of its decision to terminate in writing between September 1, 1997 and September 22, 1997…"
  • Despite the ambiguity of the end date of the notification window, both dates have now passed without my receiving the required written notification. Although I am pleased to continue as part of the team for another contract year, given your efforts to dismiss my co-producer Steve Wilson, I thought I should re-affirm my standing commitment to presenting the BGH story without distortion or slant of any kind.

    At Phil Metlin’s direction upon returning from vacation earlier this month, your legal counsel Carolyn Forrest, and Steve and I as producers of the series, have been reviewing it separately. Phil has advised us that she remains dissatisfied and is insisting on further changes.

    In trying to satisfy what she has claimed to be strictly legal concerns, Steve and I have re-written scripts nearly five dozen times. We have kept all 56 versions of parts I-IV. Seeing the latest version in context and more clearly now after a three-week break, we believe it is not only difficult for the average viewer to understand but, more importantly, it remains so distorted and slanted in content and tone that for us to broadcast it in its present form would still violate the Communications Act of 1934 and FCC rules and policy which implement the law.

    You will recall that the slanted nature of the report was our primary concern when we discussed this story with you in your office conference room on Thursday, April 10th, the day you asked if we were "prepared to die on this hill". (This was the same day you presented us with Ms. Forrest’s letter which wrongfully accused Steve and I of shoddy and unprofessional journalism, a malicious defamation which she also distributed to top Fox executives.)

    When we met with you six days later, we told you again that broadcasting the story in the distorted manner you were insisting upon would be more than just bad journalism and a violation of public trust. You’ll remember it was at that April 16th meeting that we put you on notice how firmly we believed such action would constitute a violation of FCC rules and policy and we made it clear we were prepared to file an official complaint with the Commission. Your response to our continued stand for an honest, unbiased broadcast of information important to the health and welfare of our viewers was to threaten that we could "both be fired for insubordination within 48 hours".

    When you did not carry out that threat to terminate us, we hoped you and your counsel realized the merit of our position—or at least understood that taking a retaliatory personnel action against an employee for objecting or refusing to take part in any activity of the employer which is in violation of a law, rule, or regulation is clearly illegal.

    This letter is further notice to you that the BGH report you are pressuring us to broadcast remains a largely slanted and distorted picture of what we know to be the truth and, further, that broadcasting it its present biased and distorted state would be an activity in violation of the law and FCC rules and policy. I must still respectfully refuse to be a party to a broadcast which does not present viewers with an honest picture. Decent journalism—to speak nothing of the law—requires no less.

    Please be further advised that if you seek to take any retaliatory action against me because of my objection and refusal to be forced to take part in a broadcast of slanted news, I will not hesitate to join Steve in legal action or file similar complaints on my own.

    In my opinion, it is highly doubtful, given Ms. Forrest’s hostile attitude, that even six dozen additional re-writes of this series would result in a presentation acceptable to her. Nonetheless, I repeat my commitment to continue to adhere to and cooperate with your procedures and directions to the extent they do not require me to produce a broadcast which includes facts or characterizations I know to be false or misleading.

    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,

    janesig.gif (1227 bytes)

    Jane Akre

     

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

     

    By Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested



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