A CNN report discussed Media Matters President Angelo Carusone’s recent testimony to the U.K.’s chief competitions watchdog, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), against 21st Century Fox’s bid to take over satellite broadcasting company Sky plc, which oversees Sky News. The CMA invited Carusone along with Media Matters’ U.K. partners to testify last week as part of its investigation into 21st Century Fox’s bid, citing Media Matters as “a relevant third party.” On October 24, Media Matters had submitted a report to the CMA illustrating the havoc 21st Century Fox would wreak on the British media landscape if its bid is approved.
At the October 27 hearing, Carusone testified alongside media experts and advocates from Avaaz, Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom, the Media Reform Coalition, Hacked Off, and 38 Degrees. As CNN reported, Carusone detailed the widespread culture of pushing politically and financially-motivated misinformation and intimidating critics at Fox News and other Murdoch-owned outlets:
Carusone told CNN that he hammered 21st Century Fox on several fronts during the hearing. He cited examples of Fox News publishing inaccurate information as a problem. He also said he told the regulators it's troubling that Fox has commentators who have a direct interest in the matter they speak about, but do not acknowledge the conflict of interest, and said he brought up what he says are Fox's blurred lines between what is news and what is commentary on air.
Carusone said he also testified about issues of corporate governance at Fox and 21st Century Fox, and brought up an instance in which he said Fox News tried to obtain the phone records of one of their staffers who was reporting on the network. The incident, Carusone said, is reminiscent of another Murdoch company's phone hacking scandal in which News of the World staffers were accused of hacking the phones of celebrities, including those in the Royal Family. Fox News has denied it sought the phone records of the Media Matters staffer.
"[The company] can be influential in terms of going after and attacking and they also can be retaliatory," Carusone said.
Media Matters has actively opposed 21st Century Fox’s proposed takeover of Sky plc since it was first announced. On March 30, Media Matters submitted, in partnership with Avaaz, a report to Ofcom that detailed the risks the Murdochs' desired takeover of Sky poses to British broadcasting standards. Media Matters and Avaaz had previously submitted a report to Karen Bradley, U.K.’s secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, demonstrating that the risk of “Foxification” of Britain’s public debate is too great for Bradley to simply rubber-stamp a Murdoch takeover of Sky.
Rupert Murdoch abandoned a previous bid for full ownership of the company in light of an investigation into a mass phone hacking scandal at his U.K.-based newspapers. Following an investigation, a parliamentary report found that Murdoch was “not a fit person” to run a major corporation and that his son James had showed “wilful ignorance” of the industrial-scale hacking.