Case #1397.0

ABC and Food Lion: A Case Study

Publication Date: January 01, 1997
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The rise of highly-rated nonfiction television programs has sparked concern about the techniques which television producers use to gather images and information. This press ethics case focuses on a particularly controversial technique: the decision of the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) to use hidden cameras and undercover producers to gather footage said to show that the Food Lion supermarket chain was re-labeling meat so as to sell what might be spoiled meat as fresh. It also explores the motivations and sources of journalists, as well as the novel approach Food Lion used to strike back at ABC, seeking damages not for libel but for fraud, trespass, and breach of duty of (employee) loyalty, on the part of undercover reporters who actually obtained employment at Food Lion.

Learning Objective:
The case frames the question of whether the importance of a television news magazine story justifies deceptive newsgathering techniques.

Other Details

Case Author:
Zachary Karahill
Faculty Lead:
Marvin Kalb
Pages (incl. exhibits):
United States