Media Structures & Regulations

Issues ››› Media Structures & Regulations
  • Breitbart Is Not Independent, It's The Communications Arm Of The Mercers' Empire

    Top Editors Use Their Roles At Breitbart To Flack For Other Mercer Ventures They Also Work For

    ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Media Matters investigates the web of self-dealing, conflicts of interest, and corruption surrounding Breitbart.com. Its top editors have used the site to promote nonprofit organizations, for-profit companies, and personal clients who in turn pay them hefty salaries.​

  • On The Firing Of Bill O’Reilly: What Is Gone, And What Is Not

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    It’s official: Bill O’Reilly is out at Fox News. What exactly does that change? What stays the same?

    On April 1, The New York Times wrote that O’Reilly and 21st Century Fox, Fox News’ parent company, have paid out at least $13 million in settlements with five women reporting sexual harassment by O’Reilly. After weeks of relentless activism from progressive organizers including Media Matters, of advertisers pulling their ads from the O’Reilly Factor time slot, of more courageous women coming forward to share their own reports of misconduct by O’Reilly, of hundreds of sexual violence survivors asking Fox to do better, O’Reilly has been deemed too toxic for Fox.

    O’Reilly’s smug on-camera demeanor, his attacks on women for speaking up, and his attempts to blacklist media outlets that reported on his sexual harassment settlements as far back as 2004 will be diminished if not gone for good. The lies he tells about women’s bodies and the blame he lays squarely at women’s feet every night will be silenced, at least for now.

    But what happens to the company, and the culture, that allowed him to thrive for so long? O’Reilly abused the power he was given by Roger Ailes, Rupert Murdoch, Bill Shine, and Jack Abernethy. These are the same men who greenlighted a sham investigation into the workplace culture at Fox News, who oversaw decades of mistreatment of women employees, and who profited when O’Reilly and his peers (including replacement Tucker Carlson) launched racist and sexist attacks on their shows.

    Only one of those men is no longer in the picture, because he, too, abused the power he had to harass women. The rest remain, and thus it also remains to be seen if Fox News will actually change for the women it employs.

    What’s more, the way women move through the world won’t change because of O’Reilly’s firing. The statistics won’t change with the downfall of one man.

    One in three women between the ages of 18 and 34 has been sexually harassed at work.

    More than 90 percent of women who work in tipped wage positions in restaurants have experienced some form of sexual harassment.

    About 70 percent of women who experience workplace sexual harassment do not report it, for fear of retaliation.

    Our culture won’t change this quickly either. The pain of countless women lingers in O'Reilly's wake.

    Bill O’Reilly won’t be around every night to remind me -- and, I’m sure, countless others -- of the men who have hurt and violated us in the past. But the president of the United States will be; in fact, he’s come to O’Reilly’s defense

    Image at top created by Sarah Wasko. 

  • The FCC’s Big Giveaway To Pro-Trump Television Broadcasting Groups

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    UPDATE: The FCC has voted to reinstate the "UHF discount," which will "clear the way for Sinclair Broadcasting Group Inc. to purchase Tribune Media Co.," according to the Los Angeles Times

    ORIGINAL POST:

    The Federal Communications Commission is expected to vote tomorrow to ease a media ownership rule that prevents greater consolidation of broadcast television stations. Two of the biggest expected beneficiaries of that decision will be Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Television Stations and the Sinclair Broadcasting Group, both key media allies of President Donald Trump.

    To prevent the consolidation of too much power in too few hands, current rules prohibit “a single entity from owning commercial broadcast television stations that collectively reach more than 39 percent of the total television households in the nation.”

    For more than 30 years, the FCC allowed station owners to count only 50 percent of the potential viewers in the markets where they owned stations that broadcast ultrahigh frequency (UHF) transmissions, rather than their entire potential audience. This “UHF discount” was granted because such transmissions had a more limited range at the time, but the transition to digital transmission eliminated this discrepancy, and in September 2016, the Obama-era FCC repealed that rule.

    But the FCC has new leadership under President Donald Trump -- the president promoted to chairman FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, a fierce opponent of media regulations who opposed eliminating the “UHF discount" -- and today the commission will reportedly act to benefit the media moguls who supported Trump’s election. According to Variety:

    That action, along with the prospect of deregulatory moves by the Republican-controlled FCC, have Wall Street analysts expecting consolidation among major station groups. Sinclair Broadcasting is reportedly eyeing Tribune Media, and other stations groups, like Nexstar, CBS Corp. and Fox Television Stations, seem to have found a sympathetic ear at the agency to their argument that the current regulations diminish investment.

    After Murdoch’s television and newspaper properties gave Trump overwhelmingly positive coverage during the presidential campaign, Trump reportedly asked Murdoch to submit a list of potential FCC chairman nominees during the transition. Murdoch’s media entities have been the president’s biggest cheerleaders over the first months of his administration, and garnered praise and access from Trump in return. Now that cheerleading is getting paid back with dollar signs.

    Through 21st Century Fox, Murdoch currently owns 28 television stations in 17 markets, including in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Houston, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Orlando and Charlotte. His stations reach roughly 37 percent of U.S. television households, just under the FCC’s cap.

    The reinstatement of the “UHF discount” -- which 21st Century Fox has fought for in court -- will give the company more flexibility to purchase additional stations, increasing Murdoch’s grip on the media landscape. That will have a real impact for viewers, as Fox’s broadcast stations often adopt the same conservative talking points and story selection as Fox News.

    Sinclair Broadcasting Group would also benefit from the rule change. Sinclair has drawn scrutiny in the past for its conservative bent, and the company reportedly made a deal with Trump’s campaign in which its journalists received access to Trump in exchange for broadcasting interviews with him without commentary. Earlier this week, Sinclair announced it had hired former Trump aide Boris Epshteyn as its “chief political analyst.”

    As Variety noted, Sinclair is interested in purchasing television stations owned by Tribune Media. But such a deal would “would hinge on existing regulations being relaxed” because Sinclair is near the FCC ownership cap, according to Reuters.

    Trump’s FCC is acting to put the control of the media in the hands of ever-fewer corporate giants. And Pai is just getting started.

    Image by Sarah Wasko.

  • Report: 21st Century Fox Board Of Directors Will Meet To Decide Bill O’Reilly’s Fate

    Wall Street Journal: "Fox Is Preparing To Cut Ties With Bill O’Reilly"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    21st Century Fox’s board of directors will meet to discuss the future of longtime Fox News host Bill O’Reilly following revelations that O’Reilly and the network spent millions to settle sexual harassment complaints against the host.

    According to a report from CNN’s Brian Stelter, “The network's parent company, 21st Century Fox (FOX), will hold a board meeting on Thursday” to discuss O'Reilly's future at the organization.”  According to Stelter, one source said, “representatives for Fox and O'Reilly have begun talking about an exit.”

    A well-placed source said Tuesday afternoon that representatives for Fox and O'Reilly have begun talking about an exit. But this prompted a denial from sources in O'Reilly's camp.

    Even one person close to O'Reilly, however, said he will probably not be back on "The O'Reilly Factor."

    The original well-placed source said an announcement about O'Reilly's fate was likely by the end of the week.

    The fact that none of these sources were willing to go on the record speaks to the delicate maneuvering underway.

    The network's parent company, 21st Century Fox (FOX), will hold a board meeting on Thursday, a spokeswoman told CNNMoney. One of the sources said O'Reilly will be a primary topic.

    The report comes after The New York Times revealed that O’Reilly and the network paid nearly $13 million to quietly settle lawsuits against the host for allegations of sexual harassment. As more women came forward with reports of sexual harassment and retaliation by O’Reilly dozens of companies pulled their ads from O’Reilly’s timeslot.

    21st Century Fox’s board of directors includes Rupert Murdoch, Lachlan Murdoch, James Murdoch, Jeffrey Ubben, Tidjane Thiam, Robert Silberman, Jacques Nasser, Viet Dinh, David DeVoe, James Breyer, Delphine Arnault, Sir Roderick Eddington, Chase Carey. See below:

    Rupert Murdoch (Executive Chairman)

    Company: 21st Century Fox

    Phone: 212-416-3400

    Twitter: @rupertmurdoch

    Email: rmurdoch@21cf.com

    Lachlan K. Murdoch (Executive Chairman)

    Company: 21st Century Fox

    Phone: 1-212-852-7000

    Fax: 1-212-852-7145

    Chase Carey (Vice Chairman)

    Company: 21st Century Fox

    Phone: 212-852-7000

    Email: ccarey@21cf.com

    Sir Roderick I. Eddington ( Lead Director, 21st Century Fox)

    Non-Executive Chairman, Australia and New Zealand

    Company: J.P. Morgan

    Phone: Sydney, Australia: +612 9003 8888; Melbourne, Australia: +613 9633 4000, U.S.: (858) 622-6806

    Email: jeff.eddington@wellsfargo.com

    Delphine Arnault (Executive Vice President)

    Company: Louis Vuitton Malletier

    Official account of the LVMH group: @LVMH

    Phone: 33-1-44-13-22-22

    Fax: 33-1-44-13-21-19

    James W. Breyer (Founder and Chief Executive Officer)

    Company: Breyer Capital

    Phone: 650-389-2943

    Twitter: @jimihendrixlive

    David DeVoe (Senior Advisor)

    Company: 21st Century Fox

    Phone: 212-852-7000

    Fax: 212-852-7145

    Viet Dinh (Professor of Law)

    Organization: Georgetown University Law Center

    Phone: 202-662-9000

    Twitter: @BancroftPLLC

    Email: dinhv@law.georgetown.edu

    James Murdoch (Chief Executive Officer)

    Company21st Century Fox

    Phone: 212-416-3400

    Email: jmurdoch@21cf.com

    Jacques Nasser (Chairman)

    Company: BHP Bilton

     Phone: 313-322-3000

    Twitter: @bhpbillitonilton

    Robert Silberman (Executive Chairman)

    Strayer Education, Inc.

    Company Phone: (703) 247-2500

    Twitter: @StrayerInc

    Email: Robert.Silberman@strayer.edu

    Tidjane Thiam (Chief Executive Officer)

    Company: Credit Suisse Group AG

    Phone: 41 44 212 16 16

    Fax: 41 44 332 55 55

    Email: tidjane.thiam@credit-suisse.com

    Credit Suisse Twitter handle: @CreditSuisse

    Jeffrey W. Ubben (Founder, CEO and Chief Investment Officer)

    Company: ValueAct Capital

    Phone: 415-362-3700

    Fax: 415-362-5727

    UPDATE: According to The Wall Street Journal (which shares a parent company with 21st Century Fox), “Fox News is preparing to cut ties with its biggest star, Bill O’Reilly.”  Despite O’Reilly’s viewership, Fox news will have to decide the “pros and cons of keeping Mr. O’Reilly on the air” as advertisers continue to leave his show. From The Wall Street Journal:

    A final decision on Mr. O’Reilly’s fate could come as early as the next several days, the people said. Mr. O’Reilly, host of “The O’Reilly Factor,” has been ensnared in a sexual-harassment scandal related to previously undisclosed settlements he and Fox News paid to women who worked on or appeared on his program.

    […]

    Initially, Fox News and parent company 21st Century Fox stood by their highly-rated host. Mr. O’Reilly has denied any wrongdoing, saying he paid settlements to “put to rest any controversies to spare my children.”

    However, as advertisers fled his show, debate inside company ensued over the pros and cons of keeping Mr. O’Reilly on the air. His show draws about 4 million viewers a night, and the controversy didn’t dent his ratings.

    This piece has been updated with additional information.

  • Murdoch Takeover Of Sky Would Undermine British Broadcasting Standards, Joint Report Shows

    Fox News And 21st Century Fox Have Faced Legal Action For Enabling Pervasive Workplace Discrimination And Sexual Harassment

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Media Matters, in partnership with global activism group Avaaz, submitted a report to U.K.'s chief broadcasting regulator, Ofcom, detailing the risks Rupert Murdoch’s desired takeover of British satellite broadcasting company Sky poses to British broadcasting standards. On March 16, U.K. Culture Secretary Karen Bradley had referred Murdoch's takeover bid to Ofcom for a thorough investigation on the grounds of "media plurality and commitment to broadcasting standards." Ofcom has to report back to Secretary Bradley by May 16.

    Since the referral, more alarming information has come out about the toxic corporate culture and alleged improper conduct in Murdoch’s company. Media Matters and Avaaz detailed these additional concerns in their report:

    In recent months, serious allegations of sexual harassment, other abuse and discrimination, and corporate misgovernance have been levelled at subsidiaries of 21C Fox. Many of these allegations are against the highest and most influential people at the organisation. Investigative news reports, victims’ testimonies, and court documents paint a picture of a management with no meaningful accountability and no credible governance structure. The situation is so serious that federal prosecutors are now investigating.

    In July 2016, Fox News anchorwoman Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit against Fox News CEO Roger Ailes in the New Jersey Superior Court. After reportedly trying hard to campaign against the culture of harassment, she alleges that Ailes “sabotaged” her career because she “refused his sexual advances.” She was forced to file against Ailes and not Fox News because her contract had a clause that mandated employment disputes be resolved in private arbitration - an approach Fox News adopts repeatedly, denying victims their day in court.

    A stark pattern of corporate negligence and management failure emerges, with a number of alleged incidents occurring after 2012, the date when 21C Fox claims to have introduced a new corporate conduct compliance mechanism. This pattern has strong echoes of years-long attempts by executives to mislead authorities, investors, staff and the public about phone hacking and other illegal activity in the UK.

    This joint report builds upon a previous report on 21st Century Fox’s unsuitability to take over Sky -- which oversees Sky News. The new document, details the corporate governance failures of Murdoch-controlled 21st Century Fox, including the new lawsuits and reports of sexual harassment.

    This culture of discrimination and abuse is also reflected in the programming of Fox News. As detailed in the new report, the network has repeatedly violated the standards of the Broadcasting Code of Britain’s 2003 Communications Act through “a consistent pattern of derogatory or abusive statements about a variety of groups, religions and communities as well as singling out specific individuals for unfair treatment. … All in all, there is a consistent pattern of regular abusive and derogatory treatment of a range of individuals, groups, religions and communities that is absolutely not justified by the context of the broadcasts in question. Fox has largely failed to adequately correct or respond to complaints, and has let similar abusive and derogatory material air on subsequent occasions -- again, uncorrected."

    Murdoch's Fox Effect: How full ownership of Sky risks undermining British broadcasting standards by Media Matters for America on Scribd

  • Read Attorney Lisa Bloom’s Letter About Fox News’ Toxic Culture And Why It Should Tank Murdoch’s Sky News Deal 

    Bloom, Who Represents O'Reilly Accuser Wendy Walsh: Fox Has Shown An "Utter Disregard For The Rights Of Women"

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Fox News’ “ongoing culture of sexual harassment, its recent payouts of tens of millions of dollars of hush money, and most egregiously, its role in ending the careers of women who complained has been well documented in American media,” and it reveals an “utter disregard for the rights of women,” according to attorney Lisa Bloom.

    Bloom -- whose firm is well-known for representing clients who report sexual assault and sexual harassment by men in positions of power, including President Donald Trump -- now represents Wendy Walsh, a radio personality who says Fox News host Bill O’Reilly sexually harassed her in 2013.

    Walsh shared her experience in the wake of an April 1 New York Times report revealing that O’Reilly and Fox News’ parent company, 21st Century Fox, have paid a total of about $13 million to avoid lawsuits pertaining to reports of sexual harassment and other misconduct by O’Reilly. Walsh’s account is the latest in a long timeline of reports of sexual harassment at Fox News that reveals a pattern of corporate retaliation, victim-blaming, and million- and million-plus-dollar payouts for silence extending far beyond O’Reilly or former Fox chairman Roger Ailes, who resigned last year after numerous women said that he had sexually harassed them. Activists, including Media Matters president Angelo Carusone, have spurred more than 80 U.S. advertisers to respond to the Times report about O’Reilly by pulling their ads from airing during the O’Reilly Factor time slot.

    Bloom is now joining global activism group Avaaz in laying out the case for why this toxic workplace culture of sexual harassment, discrimination, and silence -- which has festered under the watch of 21st Century Fox owner Rupert Murdoch and his sons -- should disqualify the company from its bid to acquire British satellite broadcasting company Sky.

    21st Century Fox struck a $22.9 billion deal to acquire Sky in December, but they have faced hurdles in getting clearance from British antitrust and media regulators. The U.K. media regulator Ofcom is now charged with reviewing 21st Century Fox and Murdoch’s stakes in British media, and it could “kill the deal if it decides that Murdoch and 21st Century Fox do not meet the standard of ‘fit and proper’ owners.” The standard, as CNN reports, is “broad” and includes consideration of “any relevant misconduct” on the part of Murdoch or the company -- such as, perhaps, his reported resistance to firing O’Reilly and 21st Century Fox’s long-term complicity in violating workplace protections for women and people of color.

    Bloom sent a letter to Ofcom on April 11 detailing the company’s long history of sexual harassment and discrimination under Murdoch’s leadership, which the attorney noted had also spurred her to ask the New York State Division of Human Rights to “open an investigation into the toxic culture for women at Fox News.” New York City public advocate Letitia James has also called on the city’s Commission on Human Rights to investigate Fox for employment discrimination.

    In her letter to Ofcom, Bloom wrote that 21st Century Fox’s silence and “utter disregard for the rights of women” reveal a “lack of oversight, intervention, and decency” at the company.

    Read the full letter to Ofcom below, and Bloom’s dossier on Fox culture sent to the Division of Human Rights here.

    Lisa Bloom letter to Ofcom by Media Matters for America on Scribd

    Image at top by Dayanita Ramesh.

  • How Jokes Become Fake News

    Hyperpartisan Fake News Purveyors Repurposed A Satirical Entertainment Article To Smear Malia Obama

    Blog ››› ››› JARED HOLT

    Fake news purveyors recently cited a satirical entertainment article that falsely claimed Malia Obama was expelled from Harvard University, demonstrating how fake news purveyors repurpose and manufacture fake news online.

    The post was first published by Last Line of Defense, a website that declares on its “About Us” page, “All articles should be considered satirical and any and all quotes attributed to actual people complete and total baloney.” The site claimed that Obama, the daughter of former President Barack Obama, was expelled from Harvard University after she was caught ”vaping marijuana with friends” in “a Boston hotel lounge” and therefore was breaking the school’s anti-drug policy. The satirical article also claimed that the Obama family’s lawyer “is planning on filing a discrimination suit, because isn’t everything about race?” On April 10, Snopes debunked the article as false, noting that “Malia Obama was not expelled from Harvard University for smoking marijuana” and that, although the young Obama has been accepted at Harvard, she hasn’t started attending the university yet.

    Although the story was fabricated for entertainment and was intended to mock conservatives, it was quickly picked up by serial fake news purveyors. Sites including US Headline, Southern Conservative, Anews-24, Conservative Info Corner, We Conservative, USA Daily Post, and Flash News Corner published their own versions of the satirical story under the banner of journalism. According to Buzzsumo, a social media analytics site, 16 articles about the claim were shared 43,292 times across Facebook between April 4 and April 11.

    Fake news purveyors sometimes cite satirical news sites such as Last Line of Defense, repackaging and transforming pieces that originated as entertainment into fake news that reinforces the purveyor's tone or agenda. These sites then distribute them to hyperpartisan social media audiences on Facebook, whose newsfeed algorithms search -- based on images or articles the users have engaged with in the past -- for content that reinforces users’ beliefs in what is known as a filter bubble.

    Last Line of Defense was also the source of a fake story that claimed that two congressmen were caught plotting President Donald Trump’s assassination. PolitiFact rated the story “pants on fire” false and noted that the hoax had spread to fake news sites. It was shared more than 20,000 times on Facebook as of April 11, according to Buzzsumo.

    Media Matters has mapped out the fake news universe, concluding that satirical political entertainment sites are not inherently “fake news purveyors” on their own because their media is designed to entertain or inspire consumers, rather than to intentionally deceive them. Satire sites manufacture their laughs and clicks by fabricating stories that play to presupposed notions of the audiences they intend to mock. In this example, Last Line of Defense played to right-wing speculation about marijuana usage by Malia Obama, inspired by a video that emerged last year that depicted Obama smoking what appears to be marijuana and about a “shadow government” conspiracy to take down Trump, which unintentionally became fodder for purveyors of hyperpartisan fake news.

  • Newspaper Chooses To Focus On "Troubled Past" Of The Passenger Who Was Violently Dragged Off A United Flight

    Update: Journalism Experts Call Out The "Irrelevance" Of The Information

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL & JOE STRUPP

    This post has been updated with comments from journalism experts. 

    Days after United Airlines passenger David Dao was violently removed by security officials from an overbooked flight, his local newspaper, The Courier-Journal, published a report detailing the man’s completely unrelated “troubled past” and printed photos of his home and office. This the latest in an irresponsible pattern in which media attempt to recast nonwhite victims as criminals rather than interrogating the institutional structures motivating instances of violence.

    On Sunday, videos emerged online of three Chicago Department of Aviation security officers violently dragging a passenger from an overbooked United Airlines flight from Chicago to Louisville, KY. The videos, taken by fellow passengers from several different angles, show three officers physically removing the passenger, Dr. David Dao, from his seat, pulling him to the ground and injuring his face in the process, then dragging his limp body off the plane. In contrast to the raw violence captured in the videos, United Airlines’ “lukewarm” response has so far been riddled with euphemisms, and a letter to United employees disparaged Dao as “disruptive and belligerent.”

    By Tuesday morning, the passenger’s hometown Louisville newspaper, The Courier-Journal, had published a report detailing Dao’s completely unrelated criminal record from over a decade ago. The report also included photos of his house and office (the photo of his house appears to have since been removed from the post). This reporting was not a matter of public interest, nor was it relevant to the incident in any way -- instead, it acted as an attempt to redirect public conversation from corporate power, institutional violence, and potential racism to a singular focus on an individual’s past actions.

    Quality journalism holds power to account. But we’ve seen journalists focusing instead on  investigating individuals who have been subject to institutional violence before -- and writers are highlighting the ethical implications of this continuing practice, even as the paper defends its piece and others gear up to engage in the same character assassination:

    UPDATE:

    In comments to Media Matters reporter Joe Strupp, journalism experts and reporters were critical of the Courier-Journal’s decision to publish Dao’s history.

    Tom Fiedler, dean of the College of Communication at Boston University, said he was “appalled that the Courier-Journal would dredge up this passenger’s personal history, which is not only irrelevant to the incident but is tied to a crime that occurred 13 years ago and has been fully adjudicated. The effect of this article is to further victimize the victim.”

    Former NPR ombudsman Alicia Shepard said the article was “such an overreach.” She added, “His personal life, troubles, work history is of absolutely no news value. That is one of the clearest invasions of privacy I've heard about in a long time. The Louisville Courier-Journal should be ashamed of itself. I'd love to hear their justification. They and United's treatment are newsworthy because each treated Mr. Dao and his family without any empathy or humanity.”

    "If they took advantage of things in his personal background to make a story, the information would have to be very important for the public to know," according to Bill Kovach, founder of the Committee of Concerned Journalists. "Otherwise it is, in effect, a commercial gimmick to capitalize on a public event to gather eyeballs." Kovach pointed out that the paper "could also have done a story on the personal background of the officer who was dragging him."

    John Ferré, a journalism professor at the University of Louisville, said Dao’s past conviction “had nothing to do with security staff dragging him off a United Airlines flight for which he had purchased a seat. Whether the report has harmed Dr. Dao is unclear, but the irrelevance of the information to this story seems certain.”

    Former Courier-Journal staffer and current University of Kentucky journalism professor Al Cross said, "There is a natural curiosity among the public about a person who would object to this kind of treatment and would be one of the four people bumped who would not cooperate." He added, "That being said, I wouldn’t make this the featured story on the home page. They seem to be overdoing it. I understand the desire to get readership on a story that has international implications. It is a local story, but one of the elements of journalism is proportional. In the age of hunger for audience, it's fairly common for a wide range of news media to make too much out of things.”*

    *Note: This story has been updated to make clear Cross was saying the paper may have been "overdoing it" with the promotion of the story, not the initial reporting.

    Image by Sarah Wasko.