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The Limited Amount Of Editorializing On Radio And Television Stations Also Reflects Fears Of Legal R
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John P. Coale, one of a consortium of lawyers that has mounted the largest class action suit in history against the tobacco companies, said that ABC was intimidated by the huge amount of damages, $10 billion that Philip Morris was seeking in its suit. Richard A. Daynard, a professor at the Northeastern University School of Law and chair of the Tobacco Products Liability Project, a nonprofit antismoking group, said, "Philip Morris has bullied a major television network into Breitling Replica Watches apologizing for what was essentially a true story."55 Cliff Douglas, executive director of Tobacco Control, Law and Policy Consulting, an antismoking research group, said, "There is no question that the documents ABC obtained from Philip Morris [as part of the libel suit] directly contradict ABC's apology." He and other critics cite this as proof that ABC's decision to settle was made by Capital Cities/ABC Inc. for purely financial reasons. Reuven Frank, a former television news producer and former president of NBC News, which is owned by General Electric, put the decision in a slightly different light. "This is called the pay-the-$5-flne syndrome. Philip Morris could have tied up ABC in court for months." Philip Morris took out full-page ads in many newspapers (including, for example, the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Minneapolis Star Tribune), trumpeting its success in forcing ABC to apologize.
By obtaining an apology, particularly in a period when tobacco companies are under attack, Philip Morris achieved what no amount of ordinary advertising could have done. Moreover, the company's success will make other news outlets more cautious in their coverage of these issues.
The limited amount of editorializing on radio and television stations also reflects fears of legal reprisals. When broadcasters do editorialize, they tend to take noncontroversial stands, such as "Support your local blood bank" or "Welcome the former hostages' home." In many cases, the positions taken are vague and ambiguous. Threats of lawsuits contribute to such neutrality.
In June 1986, the Supreme Court made it easier for the news media to gain dismissal of libel suits without the high costs of trials. In Tag Heuer Replica a 6-3 ruling, the Court held in favor of columnist Jack Anderson and against the conservative Liberty Lobby. A magazine edited by Anderson had called the group neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic, racist, and fascist. The Court held that judges should dismiss cases unless evidence of "actual malice" by the media was "clear and convincing." To establish actual malice, a complainant must show that the media source knew the material was false or published it with reckless disregard for whether it was true or false.
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