ˇ July 24, 2000:
Trial Coverage: Day 7
V-P News Lays Claim To
ˇ July 24, 2000:
Trial Coverage: Day 6
Second week of trial begins
ˇ July 21, 2000:
Trial Coverage: Day 5
Week one ends with a bang;
Fox seeks mistrial, Judge
ˇ July 20, 2000:
Trial Coverage: Days 3 and 4
ˇ July 18, 2000:
Trial Coverage: Day 2
ˇ July 17, 2000:
Trial Coverage: Day 1
ˇ July 14, 2000:
Justice For Sale In Tampa?
Finally at the courthouse,
litigants can't afford to use
the courtroom facilities
ˇ July 12, 2000:
Fox Loses Key Motion; Jury
Plaintiffs do not have to
prove Fox guilty of violating Communications Act
ˇ July 8, 2000:
Potential Landmine Could
Derail Entire Case
ˇ June 30, 2000:
Judge Steinberg Ready To
Get Case Back On Track
ˇ June 26, 2000:
Judge Says 'No' to Hearing Wilson/Akre v Fox Case
ˇ June 21, 2000:
Judge To Hear Fox/BGH Case While Foxes Dishes More Distortion To WTVT Tampa
ˇ June 16, 2000:
Date Pushed Back Again; New Judge To Be Selected
ˇ June 8, 2000:
Manager Who Fired Akre and Wilson In Tampa Gets Big Promotion
David Boylan Flies Into The Sunset to Manage KTTV, Los Angeles
ˇ June 6, 2000:
Will Start Sooner Than Expected
It will proceed in the heat of the summer, probably in July
ˇ May 25, 2000:
Will Not Start June 12 as Scheduled
ˇ May 18, 2000:
Stalls on Testimony of Its president Mitchell Stern
Pre-trial hearing is otherwise uneventful
Testifies About Broadcasters' Public Interest Requirement
Presidential candidate gives testimony at pre-trial depo
ˇ May 5, 2000:
Court-ordered Mediation Is Brief and
Trial set to begin June 12
ˇ April 28,2000:
Fox Challenges rBGH
Experts At Depositions
Fox lawyers laying ground-
work to tell jurors experts are cancer scaremongers?
ˇ April 26,2000:
Testifies on Behalf of Akre & Wilson
Fox lawyers lodge objections
ˇ October 19:
Fox Lawyers Insist On Secrecy At Deposition
French TV Ejected
ˇ October 18:
FDA Wants Comments on G-M Foods
Public Meetings Start in November
ˇ October 13:
Judge Rules: Trial Will Proceed:
Defense loses third effort to have case dismissed
ˇ September 24:
Gene-modified foods might get labels:
Industry weighs voluntary steps, U.S. studies options as well
ˇ September 20:
Trial Still Set to Start Soon:
Busy Docket Delays foxBGHsuit
ˇ August 4:
Will the fight over gene-altered food products leapfrog across the Atlantic?
ˇ June 30:
UN Health Group Shuns BGH
ˇ June 1:
New York Times:
Farmers’ Right To Sue Grows - Food Warning Muzzle Likely
ˇ May 10:
Corporate Crime Reporter:
Monsanto Officials Join Leading Consumer, Environmental Groups
ˇ May 3:
Fox Deceives Viewers in Primetime,
Net Admits Staging after INSIDE EDITION Report
ˇ April 30:
Democracy Group Award to
Fired Reporters Cited for "Courage in Journalism"
ˇ April 29:
New Trial Date is October
Fox Piles On Big-Name Lawyers
ˇ April 17:
Clinton Lawyer Joins Fox
David Kendall Involvement Confirmed in Letter to Monsanto
ˇ April 16:
Fox Pleads for Another Delay
Later Trial Date to be Set April 29th
ˇ April 1:
Judge Says BGH Case Will
Go To Trial
Opening Gavel Falls May 10th
ˇ February 16:
PENTHOUSE Exposes BGH,
First-rate story of BGH situation and lawsuit against Fox TV
(rated G -- no nudity, just the story)
ˇ January 25:
Summary of BGH Developments
ˇ January 14:
How Fox Wanted to Slant News
of Canadian Concerns
Canadian BGH Concerns Were Big Issue In Firing of Fox Reporters
ˇ January 14:
Canada Says NO to BGH!
Read the CBC Story or
ˇ January 14:
Health Canada Rejects Bovine Growth Hormone in Canada
Government News Release
ˇ December 16:
Akre & Wilson Win Courage
For Work On Story Which Cost Them Their Jobs
ˇ December 15:
ABC NEWS Catches Up on BGH
Read the ABC Story or
ˇ November 7:
FOX Legal (8/28) Answers
to Reporters' Complaint Now Available
ˇ November 1:
and Fox: Partners in Censorship
PR Watch - Showcase Article
ˇ October 30:
Canadians Probe Coverup Claim
Read CBC Story or
ˇ October 24:
Reporters Get Top SPJ Ethics
ˇ October 22:
BGH Issue Explodes in Canada:
Read CBC Story or
ˇ October 7:
SECRET Canadian Study Leaked...
...BGH safety questions unanswered?
ˇ Sept 13:
Akre-Wilson Depos Start
ˇ Sept 10:
SP Times covers NutraSweet flap
ˇ Sept 10:
Our Story: Fox Still Protecting
ˇ Sept 8:
Fox Pulls Plug on NutraSweet
ˇ Sept 1:
Reporters Respond To Defense
story FOX-TV refused to air...
ˇ July 14:
Judge refuses to dismiss
all but one count of reporters' suit
ˇ July 5:
Digger Still Plays Dirty
ˇ July 1:
Depositions Continue, Trial Date
ˇ June 7:
Akre/Wilson Preparing FCC Complaint
ˇ May 26:
Judge rejects Defense motion
for Protective Order
ˇ May 25:
Grazing A Stink
- - -Don't Have a Cow
ˇ May 23:
NEW YORK TIMES:
(Silenced) Reporters... Post Web Site
ˇ May 21:
Wilson/Akre demand on-air correction
ˇ April 29:
FOX-TV asks court:
and Delay depositions
FOX STATION MANAGER
NEWS DISTORTION VIOLATES
CONTRACT AND FCC RULES
By JANE AKRE
TAMPA (July 26, 2000)—Contradicting the cornerstone of his own
company’s defense, Fox General Manager David Boylan admitted under
oath that a television station jeopardizes its FCC license when it
deliberately distorts the news.
And with a simple “yes,” he also conceded that plaintiffs
Jane Akre and Steve Wilson would have breached their Fox
contracts had they done anything which would have jeopardized the
station’s ability to operate.
examination by his own attorney that lasted only a
minute-and-a-half, Boylan was never asked if he ordered the
reporters to lie or distort the truth on Fox-owned WTVT in Tampa.
Grilled Fox Exec
The Fox station executive ended a shortened Week II
of the trial after testifying all day Wednesday and Thursday
until just before noon when court recessed until next
In what initially looked like another page from the
same playbook, Boylan repeatedly testified about how little
he knew about the BGH story during the entire seven-month
period the dispute raged in the newsroom just a floor below
his executive suite at WTVT.
Under persistent questioning by Jane Akre’s
attorney John Chamblee, the adverse witness claimed he never
even read the heavy- handed threats Monsanto’s lawyer sent
to Fox News chief Roger Ailes on the eve of the broadcasts
that were prepared by Akre and Wilson, her reporting partner
and also her husband.
To The Story
As with all elements of the dispute over the story,
Boylan stuck with the same line he gave at his pre-trial
deposition: “I specifically avoided trying to enter into
this, as tempting as it might be, because I am responsible
for profit.” He
said he never looked at any research the reporters gathered
and claimed, “I can’t recall” whether the reporters
pleaded with him to look at proof that their reporting was
solid after Fox lawyers wrote the reporters a letter and
bitterly attacked them for sloppy journalism.
He said he never read any of the reporters’ BGH
scripts “so I could be separate from the process.”
He also claimed he never knew that Akre and Wilson
ultimately turned in two versions of the story exactly as
directed by the station’s news VP, nor that his executive
in charge of the news never bothered to read either script
until forced to do so at a pre-trial deposition more than a
year after the two were fired.
News VP Phillip Metlin admitted on the stand a day earlier
(Tuesday) that once he did finally get around to reading the
final reporters’ version, “it read pretty well to me”
and he saw no reason that he could not have aired the
By STEVE WILSON
Fox To Judge:
‘THERE IS NO
It is an issue that has bedeviled the case from the
start—and one that may yet derail the plaintiffs before a jury
ever gets to deliberate.
defendant has argued almost from the start that they cannot ever
lose the case as a matter of law.
Jane Akre and I can never prevail, they have said, simply
because there is no “law, rule, or regulation” that says a
television station cannot deliberately distort and slant the news.
It is an argument they’ve run up the flagpole at least
twice before in efforts to have the case summarily dismissed without a
trial. Two state court
judges studied that argument and failed to salute.
But now the trial court judge—the third to be assigned to the
case since it was filed—has indicated he might not see it the same
way as his predecessors.
What this means, the judge has explained out of earshot of
the jury, is that after the plaintiffs finish presenting their
case in chief, he might well grant a defendant’s motion for a
directed verdict. End
of trial. Beginning of
What seems apparent is that either Judge Steinberg wasn’t
listening carefully to Ralph Nader, or he didn’t believe him.
Nader did a first-rate job explaining how broadcasters who
use the public airwaves have a legal duty to serve the public
slanting and distorting the news, he explained, violates the law.
Specifically, Nader added, the Communications
Act of 1934 requires broadcasters to serve the public interest, to
be a good character, and not to broadcast a false signal.
Fox wants the judge to believe that prohibitions on news
distortion are merely FCC policy and not any formal law, rule, or
regulation as specified in the Florida whistleblower law.
Of course, call it what you like, as Fox’s own station
manager admitted on the stand Thursday, lying on the air and
distorting the news is a sure way to lose a license to broadcast.
It doesn’t happen frequently but it has happened
before—and the FCC has made it clear it can happen again whenever
anyone brings evidence that meets the commission’s criteria as
stated in a decision involving the CBS News documentary Hunger In
The standards set by the FCC in that case fit the
circumstances in this case like a glove.
And haven't we all seen enough real-life courtroom drama to believe that
old saw “if
it fits, he cannot acquit”—and certainly can't grant a directed verdict that
would stop the case in its tracks and take it away from the jury.
two months before the journalists were dismissed.
None of the 83 versions Akre and Wilson wrote and re-wrote
was ever acceptable for broadcast, leading to their claim that once
Monsanto threatened “dire consequences” if their reports were to
air, there was no chance anything would be acceptable to Fox
managers and lawyers bent on taking no risks.
Apparently Boylan’s boss at Fox headquarters was pleased
with his commitment to the bottom-line.
In June, Fox Television president Mitchell Stern promoted
Boylan to manage the network’s second-biggest station, KTTV Fox 11
in Los Angeles. Just
three years earlier, Boylan was at the helm of the only other
television station he’s ever managed—WGHP in High Point, North
Carolina— another Fox-owned property.
According to testimony, it was Stern who gave the marching
orders on how Fox lawyers and managers should edit the BGH reports,
ordering them to “take no risks” with the stories.
Fox lawyer Gregory G. Jones has testified that after those
instructions were relayed to him, he used the Monsanto threat
letters “as a roadmap” to craft the Akre/Wilson stories.
Many of the claims in those letters were themselves false and
misleading, according to other testimony in the case.
GM's Testimony Didn't Help
Swipes At Wilson
Boylan repeatedly took aim at Wilson’s experience and
reputation, despite warnings from the judge that reputa- tions—good
or bad—are not at issue in this trial.
Boylan also mentioned a four-year-old unproven claim against
Wilson, another matter the judge had previously told the witness
would not be allowed into
The manager also found several occasions to sneer at Wilson for
“coming from a tabloid environment,” referring to Wilson's
previous employment at the television newsmagazine Inside Edition.
The four-time Emmy award-winning investigative journalist has
a 28-year track record of producing some of the best investigative
reports on national television.
Boylan admitted he knew nothing about Wilson’s previous
work or any of the awards he has won.
State court trial judge Ralph Steinberg derailed that line of
questioning, again reminding the parties that reputation is not an
element of any claim that Fox violated Florida’s Whistleblower law
for firing employees for refusing to go along with orders that would
violate any law, rule, or regulation.
another dramatic admission, Boylan conceded that he signed a
“Request For Separation” form, asked the payroll department to
compute how much Wilson and Akre would be owed under their contracts
for the balance of the year, and sent off a packet to Fox
headquarters in New York on April 17.
That decision was
just weeks after Monsanto threatened the station and the journalists
began resisting efforts to change their scripts in ways that would
make them false or misleading—but Boylan insisted he was just
trying to make the reporters happy and termination was “only an
“Every time somebody at the station is unhappy, you prepare
a Request For Separation and send it off to the corporate Legal and
Personnel departments in New York?” Wilson asked.
“No,” replied Boylan, insisting the packet just “got
others into the loop.”
“I think there was a discussion in April that we had the
right, there was that possibility of (termination for)
insubordination but we backed off.
It was not my intention to get you fired," Boylan said.
Wilson shot back, “The truth is that you didn’t move to
fire us for cause because you had no legitimate reason to fire us,
did you Mr. Boylan?” So
why did the station really draw up those termination papers, Wilson
“This was just a way to inform others what needed to
happen, to put them in the loop.
These are our standards and procedures. No decision was made
at that time to fire you," Boylan responded.
Plaintiff’s attorney Chamblee also pointed out to Boylan
and the jury that it was just a day before the Request for
Separation was prepared that Fox lawyer Carolyn Forrest wrote her
so-called “poison pen letter” attacking Wilson and Akre for
“unfair treatment (of Monsanto), unbalanced attacks, careless
representations, and questionable links to unrelated points or
unsubstantiated assertions,”—and then inviting the reporters to resign
if they wanted.
Throughout his hours on the stand, Boylan punctuated his
message to the seven jurors with occasional smiles.
He told them he was always willing to put the BGH story on
the air, “Did you
consider the story itself to be important?”
Chamblee asked him at one point.
“Yes, I did," responded Boylan firmly. But the
station manager had to pause when Wilson asked:
Happy To Head Back To L.A.
| “what is the proper response
when reporters are asked to lie on television?”
“That’s a tough question, Steve,” Boylan said after
thinking it over for a long moment.
“I’d go to someone with specifics (of your
complaints),” Boylan added.
that exactly what we did, Mr. Boylan,” Wilson responded.
Boylan repeatedly insisted throughout his testimony that
neither reporter ever told him—or anyone else on his staff—of
any specific ethical concerns about the BGH story.
He claimed the
journalists never complained about the uneven editing process until
they sent him a letter September 23 saying, “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 in its present biased and distorted state would be
an activity in violation of the law and FCC rules and policy.”
Boylan says he didn’t really read that letter
either. He insisted the
contents were "vague" when addressed to him by the
Plaintiffs that month.
Questioning the witness himself as a pro se litigant, Wilson
then pulled out and showed Boylan and the jury memos written in
March, April and June flagging specific ethical concerns about
directives from station lawyers.
“Does this refresh your recollection that we discussed that
(much earlier than September 23)?”
Boylan answered, "It does not.”
“Did you know our complaint was about slanting the news,
you knew then didn’t you, Mr. Boylan?”
“Right," the executive conceded.
[Editor's Note: Digital
photographs in today's edition of The BGH Bulletin are
courtesy of Belle Adler, professor of journalism at Northeastern
University in Boston.]