During their appeal, FOX asserted that there are no written rules against distorting news in the media. They argued that, under the First Amendment, broadcasters have the right to lie or deliberately distort news reports on public airwaves. Fox attorneys did not dispute Akre’s claim that they pressured her to broadcast a false story, they simply maintained that it was their right to do so. After the appeal verdict WTVT general manager Bob Linger commented, “It’s vindication for WTVT, and we’re very pleased… It’s the case we’ve been making for two years. She never had a legal claim.”
In other words… Fox News went to court and admitted that they have the right to lie, and then to present that lie as real news. Real News.
REAL STINKING NEWS!
So, when you hear about the “liberal media bias” – just remember, Fox News said it was okay to not just be biased, not to present lies as news.
Here’s the actual case with the judges’ opinions. This case has been cited multiple times, but never overturned or even questioned.
The reason the case isn’t overturned or questioned is that FCC policy isn’t law, and therefore whistleblowers on violations of FCC policy aren’t subject to legal protections.
Furthermore, libel isn’t a crime in the United States—it’s up to the person being defamed to prove damages, and if that person is a public figure, the threshold moves from “telling a lie in public” to “telling a lie in public with intent to harm.” Intent is almost impossible to prove.
So Fox News can say pretty much anything it wants with few, if any consequences, save a negative hit on their credibility as a news organization. Credibility and accuracy aren’t the top priorities of Fox News viewers, however, so it’s unlikely to damage their revenue model.
EDITED TO ADD: The rules apply (or rather, don’t) to all news organizations, incidentally. As long as you’re talking about celebrities, you can pretty much say anything you want, as long as you keep it in the US.