Race & Ethnicity

Issues ››› Race & Ethnicity
  • 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

  • VIDEO: Media Can't Ignore The Voices of Activists

    Blog ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH & JOHN KERR

    In a time of historic protests and activism against bigoted and hateful policies of President Donald Trump and his administration, news outlets need to scrap the so-called “fair and balanced” panels of pundits and politicians speculating and judging protests from a studio.

    Since day one of the Trump administration, there have been organized efforts around the country to protest the president’s policies. These include the Women’s March On Washington in January which mobilized an estimated 3.6 to 4.6 million protestors around the world, demonstrations at airports across the U.S. a week later to protest banning and detaining Muslim travelers, the International Women’s Day Strike, the upcoming Tax Day March in April to pressure Trump to release his full tax returns, the People’s Climate March in the same month, and the Immigration March in May. Journalists can no longer ignore the activists, organizers and protestors who are taking to the streets and to town halls across the country to demand accountability and change.

    Media have dismissed the protests as spectacles, alleged that they are being staged, or falsely claimed that the protesters are paid to show up. Activists have been central to the evolution of American democracy and have fought for policies that are more inclusive and that better their communities.

    News outlets need to let activists tell their stories.

  • The “New Right,” Brought To You By Former Allies Of The “Alt-Right”

    Blog ››› ››› JARED HOLT

    Online personality Mike Cernovich fabricated the existence of a “new right” movement to downplay his active relationships with “alt-right” media personalities and white nationalist thought leaders. But like the nonsense diet supplements and self-help books that Cernovich hawks to his audience, the “new right” should be treated for what it is: a load of marketing bullshit.

    The truth is that although Cernovich and his media pals will claim they don’t advocate white nationalism in the same way that “alt-right” leaders like Richard Spencer do, the so-called “new right” has actively parroted the “alt-right” to build its brands. It is a mistake to give the “new right” a chance to disown the relationships that helped it blossom.

    Cernovich coined the term “new right” last year after he banned “alt-right” media personality Tim Treadstone, known online as Baked Alaska, from attending an inauguration party Treadstone had assisted Cernovich in planning called “The Deploraball.” Treadstone had published several tweets about the “Jewish Question” -- an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that suggests Jewish people scheme to dominate global media and governments. Cernovich replaced Treadstone with equally terrible “alt-right” personality Milo Yiannopoulos, who had been banned from Twitter for inciting a racially motivated harassment campaign and was later disinvited from the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) after a video surfaced in which he appears to condone pedophilia. The drama fractured the “alt-right” media landscape into factions, with some hoping to rebrand and distance themselves from the openly white nationalist fan base they had used to inspire their brands.

    After uninviting Treadstone, Cernovich introduced the concept of the “new right” in an interview with Paul Joseph Watson, editor-at-large of the conspiracy theory website Infowars, denouncing white supremacist messages spread by some members of the “alt-right." After the interview, Watson also peddled the concept of a “new right” to his fan base on social media, claiming that “there are two ‘Alt-Rights’” and that one faction is “more accurately described as the New Right.” Watson claimed the “new right” includes people who wear Trump hats, “create memes [and] have fun.” This group, he wrote, is entirely separate from “a tiny fringe minority” of people under the “alt-right” banner who “obsess about Jews, racial superiority and Adolf Hitler.”

    The public relations move worked, and soon many other notable pro-Trump new-media personalities were clustered under the “new right” brand coined by Cernovich. They included Vox Day, who wrote a manifesto on what it means to be “alt-right” that claimed “diversity + proximity = war”; “alt-right” poster boy Milo Yiannopoulos, who praised the group's membership; The Gateway Pundit’s Lucian Wintrich, who made an “alt-right” hand signal in the White House briefing room; and blogger Stefan Molyneux, who receives wide praise among white nationalist groups.

    Cernovich told The Atlantic that he “for sure” pictured himself as the leader of the “new right” and that he and his media partners “want to do nationalism without white identity politics.” Cernovich explained to New York magazine that his initial support for the “alt-right” was based on a misunderstanding: He “didn’t realize it was, like, a white, ethno-nationalist thing.” Right Side Broadcast Network (RSBN), which hired Cernovich to host a program on the pro-Trump news stream, defended Cernovich and allowed him to whitewash his track record of vile statements.

    But Cernovich and his new-media allies openly pandered to a growing pro-Trump “alt-right” media audience during the 2016 election by publishing media meant to promote fear of Muslims and pieces that attacked “social justice warriors” and others who speak out against the sexist, misogynistic, and racist rhetoric Cernovich and other “alt-right” personalities spew. Cernovich also once announced that his next project would be “part alt-right, part fitness, part anti-cuck,” and he has praised the “alt-right” movement as “sophisticated, suspicious, and combative” and declared it “woke.” The ignorance defense the “new right” is using is soiled by these figures’ year-long track record of employing such rhetoric to bolster one another's public profiles.

    Cernovich and his new-media allies are snake oil salesmen who adopt whatever controversial punditry will earn them publicity and let them promote their bogus products. For example, Cernovich uses his platform to sell copies of his self-help book for men and promote his in-development “experimental nootropic” pills that he claimed will regrow neurons inside the brain and build a “supercharged mind” that most people can’t handle.

    The “new right” is nothing more than a shallow attempt to legitimize commentary that draws upon the “alt-right” philosophy, which has been used to promote conspiracy theories like the “Pizzagate” claim that top Democratic officials were complicit in a Washington, D.C., child sex-trafficking ring run out of a pizza restaurant. Media should not grant Cernovich and his colleagues a free pass to abandon the “alt-right” talking points that they used to force themselves into media relevancy in the first place.

  • 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.

  • Chicago Urban League Calls On iHeartRadio To Break Silence On Racist Radio Host

    Chicago Urban League CEO Shari Runner: “There Is Zero Tolerance” For Segments On iHeartRadio That Ridicule The African-American Community 

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    Civil rights and gun violence prevention organizations are continuing to call on iHeartRadio to break its silence on conservative radio host Michael Berry, who hosted a weekly segment called the “Butcher Bill” and “The Chicago Weekend Crime Report” that was dedicated to mocking victims of Chicago gun violence.

    Berry hosted the racially charged segment for several years on his iHeartRadio syndicated show The Michael Berry Show, and in March Talkers magazine reported that he would be honored with a “Talk Personality of the Year” award at the 2017 iHeartMusic Awards. After mounting pressure from several local Chicago news outlets, Berry issued a disingenuous apology for his “Butcher Bill” segment and pledged to end it.

    But iHeartRadio refused to publicly comment on the controversy or say whether Berry had actually received the award during the March 5 ceremony.

    Despite a letter from 21 civil rights and gun violence prevention groups calling on the company to confirm whether it gave Berry the award, and a letter from the Chicago Urban League and other Chicago groups calling for Berry to be fired, iHeartRadio has refused to publicly address the situation.

    During the April 10 edition of WVON’s The Talk Of Chicago, Chicago Urban League president and CEO Shari Runner said that there can be “zero tolerance” for characterizing African-Americans “as people who are lawless, unprofessional, [and] uncaring,” as Berry’s segment did. Runner highlighted iHeartRadio’s large African-American audience and suggested that advertisers should consider whether they want to be associated with iHeartRadio’s brand:

    From the April 10 edition of WVON’s The Talk Of Chicago:

    RUFUS WILLIAMS (GUEST HOST): Have you been able to get caught up with what’s going on from your staff, and just give us some opening thoughts on what you think about this situation? Then we got a couple calls I’d like to take too.

    SHARI RUNNER (CHICAGO URBAN LEAGUE): Yeah, I think it’s very important that we talk about how we as African-Americans manage our narrative. This is not the kind of thing that we want to let happen and lay silent about. It doesn’t -- it hasn’t gotten the kind of press that Bill O’Reilly has. But it is equally if not more important that we understand how people hijack and think about what it is that we are doing as African-Americans to say this is who we are and this is where we should be.

    WILLIAMS: That’s a good point because it really does ask the question: What is our tolerable level of insult? And we’ve got to know that this beyond the pale. This is certainly beyond it, and we can stop and see all of the media that comes when Bill O’Reilly has a sex abuse, sex whatever, issue. And everybody pays attention and advertisers fall from that. There needs to be the same kind of outcry. There needs to be the same kind of reduction that happens when our -- when we are mocked as a people in the way in which this has happened.

    RUNNER: Yeah. No question about it. There is no tolerance. There is zero tolerance as we’ve heard in a number of different ways, that we can allow African-American people to be characterized as people who are lawless, unprofessional, uncaring. This is a big deal and we need to start with this one thing, if not many things, to make sure that our community is characterized in the right light.

    WILLIAMS: So Shari, where we stopped in leading up to our chronology for -- to today, and where we have been with this response is, we stopped at the point of having had the conversation last week with Greg [Ashlock] of iHeartMedia who runs the region that includes this guy’s show down in Texas. So he was supposed to get back to Paula [Thornton Greear, senior vice president of Chicago Urban League,] by Friday, which he did not do. So where we are now is talking about what our next steps will be. And I know we haven’t collectively sat down and talked about that, but, what I would like to do is to talk about that. Get some thoughts from you, get some thoughts from here, get some thoughts from our audience. What is it that we think our next step should be? Because we did talk about the lack of diversity in the C-suite, we talked about the lack of diversity on their board, we talked about the fact that we need to understand where their dollars gets spent, the huge influence that iHeart has on our community given the number of African-American, the number of black listeners who listen to iHeart stations. So let’s talk about what we think our next steps should be from this point, having not heard from them through today.

    RUNNER: Well it's very, very important. And I know that we have entertainment value around the people that are represented on iHeartRadio. Ninety seven percent of African-American listeners listen to a station, an urban radio station, that is owned by iHeart. And they do that. And iHeart makes money around creating dollars for advertisers who want to engage those listeners. So, how important is that to us? How important, as we’ve heard Nielson say over and over again, we have spending votes. It is not just the votes we do at the ballot box, it is a matter of how do we use those spending votes to make sure that we are available to create a movement that happens for us. And --

    WILLIAMS: So basically, you are saying, who are their advertisers? Who are the people who support iHeart? Who are the stations that we have been listening to and where we should pull back in effecting those things?

    RUNNER: Yes, absolutely. We do it and we think about it -- I hope everybody thinks about it as it relates to the Koch brothers, and who they are and what they do as it relates to our community. But really, how do we use our power as an African-American community in this country to make sure that we are doing the right things to get the things that benefit our community. 

  • How NY Times Fueled A Right-Wing Lie About So-Called "Sex-Selective" Abortions

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT

    The New York Times omitted critical context in reporting on a recently enacted Arkansas law that requires doctors to determine whether a person is choosing an abortion based on sex preference -- an approach based on the false premise that the practice is widespread.

    On March 30, Arkansas enacted a law requiring medical providers to ask a patient seeking an abortion whether she knows the sex of the fetus. If she does, she must be informed that sex-selective abortions are prohibited, and the doctor must also have access to her complete pregnancy history. In describing this legislation, the Times failed to include critical context about so-called “sex-selective” abortions -- a term used by anti-choice legislators as justification to restrict abortion even though there is little scientific evidence supporting the necessity of a ban on the practice. The Times also failed to mention that “sex-selective” abortion bans could have discriminatory effects on Asian Americans because of assumptions about their preferences based on stereotypes, which could effectively deny them access to abortion.

    Instead, the Times wrote only that Arkansas is the eighth state to enact a “sex-selective” abortion ban, explaining that such abortions "occur most frequently where there is a strong gender bias that manifests in a preference for sons." The lack of clarification helps perpetuate a harmful anti-abortion myth that has been frequently parroted in right-wing media.

    In the United States, anti-choice legislators often rely on the myth that "sex-selective" abortions are a common practice to justify further restricting access to abortion. In reality, “sex-selective” abortions are rare in the United States. Despite right-wing and anti-choice allegations that protections are needed against so-called “sex-selective” abortions, these bans have no basis in scientific research or the medical practices of abortion providers. In a study conducted in Illinois and Pennsylvania following the enactment of “sex-selective” abortion bans in those states, researchers found that “the bans were not associated with changes in sex ratios at birth.”

    Nevertheless, anti-choice lawmakers -- and in particular, those behind the Arkansas bill -- allege that such bans are necessary to protect against sex discrimination and prevent an imbalance of the gender ratio. Setting aside the fact that Arkansas’ population in 2015 was 50.9 percent female, as Vice News explained, “sex-selection abortions aren’t necessarily responsible for distorted gender ratios. Because there are multiple ways to ensure a fetus is a certain gender — for instance, parents are legally able to choose a fetus’s sex during in-vitro fertilization — it’s impossible to pinpoint why there might be more male babies born than female.”

    The Arkansas law itself is titled “An Act to Create the Sex Discrimination By Abortion Prohibition Act” -- suggesting that lawmakers are banning a form of sex discrimination. As Slate explained, however, anti-abortion groups have long employed this “kinda-sorta feminist” framing to justify their support for banning “sex-selective” abortions when in reality, “sex-selective abortion in the United States appears to be — you guessed it! — extremely, extremely rare.” Romper called the law “a deceptive masterpiece of legislative word-smithing” in its co-option of gender discrimination as a justification for its anti-choice purpose. For example, the Arkansas law states that “victims of sex-selection abortion are overwhelming female,” yet it offers no data or statistics on “sex-selective” abortions supposedly occurring in the United States.

    Beyond failing to clarify the fraudulent basis of “sex-selective” abortion bans, the Times also gave a platform to the Arkansas bill’s sponsor -- Republican Rep. Charlie Collins -- to promote racist stereotypes about non-white childbearers. Collins told the Times that the one-child policy in China prompted him to sponsor the bill, even though he had no evidence of sex-selective abortions occurring in Arkansas, or even in the United States. In fact, as a 2016 report from the Guttmacher Institute explained “in the United States, there is limited and inconclusive evidence that immigrants from [East and South Asia] -- or anywhere else -- are obtaining sex-selective abortions in this country.”

    As Rewire noted, the Arkansas bill and others like it effectively turn Asian Americans seeking abortions into “suspects” -- particularly because the law imposes harsh penalties on any medical provider who is found in violation. Rewire further explained that Arkansas’ bill is an example of state legislators using “false stereotypes and misleading language to deny Asian American women the same access to safe, confidential, and comprehensive reproductive care as anyone else.”

    By omitting critical context about the lack of evidence behind “sex-selective” abortion bans, as well as their racist underpinnings, The New York Times perpetuated and normalized harmful anti-choice misinformation that has little basis in reality.