osewalrus (osewalrus) wrote,

I hate it when the left runs off at the mouth

I also hate insomnia.

In any event, the website ceasespin.org posted this story about how "The attorneys for Fox, owned by media baron Rupert Murdock, successfully argued the First Amendment gives broadcasters the right to lie or deliberately distort news reports on the public airwaves." However, a read of the actual opinion shows this is nonsense. While I think the FL Appeals Court decision is poorly reasoned, it deals only with the very narrow issue of whether the complainant could state a claim under Florida's whistleblower protection act after a jury found that the Fox affiliate, WTVT, had fired her for threatening to file a complaint with the FCC for news distortion when WTVT spiked her story on bovine growth hormones.

The news distortion policy is a fairly old policy that applies in limited circumstances of actual hoaxes and fraudulent news. The archetypal case involved a supposed "undercover report" at a "pot party" which had been staged by the licensee and passed off as a live event. Spiking a story is not news distortion. Heck, claiming that the health care reform bills include a provision for "Death Panels" that will select people to go to disintegration chambers to avoid another 9/11, while selected Afghans and Pakistanis enter disintegration chambers to avoid further military strikes, probably doesn't count as news distortion.

There is, of course, no First Amendment right to lie -- which is why we have civil actions for liable, slander and fraud. Sometimes the First Amendment does impact how we interpret these provisions, requiring that we distinguish between malicious falsehoods or reckless reporting and innocent mistakes, as elaborated in NYT v. Sullivan. But what constitutes a lie in political debate is rather flexible legally as opposed to morally.

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