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  • Media Matters submits supporting evidence after testifying to U.K. regulator against 21st Century Fox, Sky deal

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Media Matters for America issued a follow-up memo to the U.K.’s chief competitions watchdog, Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), outlining further evidence that a full 21st Century Fox takeover of Sky PLC would portend trouble for the British media landscape. It also called on the CMA to approach Sky’s warning about shutting down Sky News with skepticism.

    The submission follows an October 27 CMA hearing at which Media Matters President Angelo Carusone testified alongside other media experts and advocates. Prior to the hearing, Media Matters submitted a report to the CMA detailing concerns with the merger.

    Today’s submission highlighted the following concerns and recommendations:

    • As exemplified in Fox News’ culture of sexual harassment and racial discrimination, there is an identifiable link between 21st Century Fox’s poor corporate governance and what is broadcast on the news outlets it owns.
    • Recent Russia-related coverage and commentary on Fox News and in The Wall Street Journal signify that the Murdochs and their news outlets continue to meddle in politics in damaging ways.
    • Regulators should be acutely aware that the line separating opinion and news programming at Fox News is nonexistent. The hiring of former White House national security aide Sebastian Gorka to a news position and a recent report from British broadcasting regulator Ofcom ruling that individual segments on Tucker Carlson Tonight and Hannity were in violation of broadcasting standards reinforce this fact. There are many more segments on Fox News programs from the last year that should be taken into consideration to assess 21st Century Fox’s commitment to broadcasting standards.
    • Sky’s warning that Sky News could close if 21st Century Fox’s bid is not approved is suspect at best. No evidence has been presented showing that Sky News’ closure was being planned before 21st Century Fox’s proposed acquisition.
    • The CMA should also consider that aside from Sky News, 21st Century Fox post-merger would have access to -- and potentially take financial and political advantage of -- information about consumers by way of internet service.

    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 global activism group Avaaz, a report to Ofcom that detailed the risks the Murdochs' desired takeover of Sky pose 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.

    Media Matters 9 Nov 2017 Submission to CMA RE Fox-Sky Merger by Media Matters for America on Scribd

  • CNN report highlights Media Matters President Angelo Carusone’s testimony against 21st Century Fox’s Sky bid

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    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. 

  • James Murdoch pleads ignorance, again. Will his failure kill his father's dream deal?

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    James Murdoch, the chief executive of 21st Century Fox (21CF), Fox News’ parent company, would prefer you consider him incompetent rather than malicious. For the second time this decade, scandal at a company he oversaw has imperiled his father Rupert’s effort to take control of European broadcaster Sky. And for the second time, he’s pleading ignorance.

    “It was news to me when we saw that number the other day,” James Murdoch told CNBC’s Julia Boorstin at an event yesterday when she asked him about the $32 million sexual harassment settlement Fox host Bill O’Reilly signed with longtime network legal analyst Lis Wiehl in January 2017, just weeks before Fox reupped O’Reilly’s contract and gave him a hefty raise. A few months later, O’Reilly would be shown the door after The New York Times reported that he or the company had paid out five previous settlements involving reports of workplace impropriety, triggering an advertiser exodus.

    For Murdoch, all that matters is that O’Reilly is gone. Indeed, he appears to consider the O’Reilly affair a victory for his management style. “It’s easy from the outside to look at it and say, ‘Well, didn’t you know that?’ I think the issue becomes, how do you react to those things” once you do know, Murdoch told Boorstin.

    Murdoch’s plea of ignorance is in line with 21st Century Fox’s statement that the company was aware of the settlement but not its amount. There are two problems with that argument. First, it suggests that Murdoch’s company was not interested enough to find out the terms of a sexual harassment settlement involving the network’s biggest star and preferred a strategy of plausible deniability. And second, it suggests that what matters is the size of the settlement, not the fact that it was the sixth involving O’Reilly during his tenure at Fox. That history was enough to drive the company to include language in O’Reilly’s new contract making it easier to fire him if new allegations surfaced, but not enough to give executives pause about keeping him at the network.

    News of the sixth O’Reilly sexual harassment settlement could hardly have come at a worse time for James and Rupert, the chairman of 21st Century Fox’s board. British regulators are currently reviewing Rupert’s $15.4 billion takeover bid for Sky PLC, a company the mogul has sought to control for years. The U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority is investigating whether Sky’s takeover by 21st Century Fox would put too much control of the nation’s media in the hands of the Murdochs and whether a Murdoch-controlled Sky would have a sufficient commitment to broadcasting standards.

    The O’Reilly bombshell endangers the deal because it is part of a disastrous record of corporate governance at Fox, as Media Matters and others have pointed out. And much of the blame for that failure falls upon James Murdoch.

    Rupert Murdoch put James in charge of 21st Century Fox in June 2015, as part of an effort to get James and his brother Lachlan to begin taking the reins of their then-84-year-old father’s media empire. Thirteen months later, Gretchen Carlson’s sexual harassment lawsuit against Fox founder Roger Ailes set off an avalanche of revelations and additional lawsuits, which exposed the network as a den of predation enforced by an institutional infrastructure geared toward silencing women. Ailes was forced out; the next year, the Times story set off a series of events leading to O’Reilly’s ouster.

    The throughline in the network’s haphazard enforcement of whether it will protect its employees is whether the public is watching. Only media attention -- and the corresponding risk to the bottom line -- forces James Murdoch and the executives he oversees into action. In January, Murdoch didn’t want to know about whether O’Reilly was engaged in serial sexual harassment of his colleagues because O’Reilly was a huge network star who had made the company a lot of money over the years. And so now he pleads ignorance and hopes that the press and the British regulators will be satisfied with the action he took to rectify the situation once he had no other choice.

    Tom Watson, the deputy leader of the Labour Party and shadow culture secretary, believes Murdoch’s Sky bid should be rejected in light of the O’Reilly revelations. “[Fox executives] knew they could rely on their employer to ignore serious allegations of sexual misconduct and pay huge sums to silence the women who made them,” he told The Guardian.

    “The parallels with the phone-hacking scandal at Rupert Murdoch’s UK newspaper empire are unsettling,” Watson added, referring to the 2011 revelation of widespread hacking of voicemails and phones by reporters at the Murdoch-owned tabloid News of the World. Notably, it was the phone-hacking fallout that brought down Murdoch’s last effort to take control of Sky (at the time BSkyB), which was withdrawn later that year as the extent of the story became clear.

    Other results of that scandal included the shuttering of the paper; the resignation and arrest of the prime minister’s spokesperson, who had been the paper’s editor when the activity occurred; several dozen settlements with people whose phones were hacked; hundreds of millions of dollars in company legal fees; the arrests of at least 16 former employees and a series of criminal trials for those involved with the phone hacking and the executives who oversaw them; personal testimony by Rupert Murdoch before a parliamentary committee that subsequently declared him “not a fit person” to run a major international company; and the resignations of several top executives in the Murdoch empire.

    One of those executives was James Murdoch, who in 2012 resigned as chairman of News International, the publisher of the family’s British newspapers, which had previously included News of the World.

    But then, too, Murdoch claimed ignorance of the illegal acts carried out by his company’s employees. He told a parliamentary inquiry in July 2011 that he had been unaware that phone hacking had been a widespread practice of his paper until very recently, and was “as surprised as you are that some of these arrangements had been made” by the company to suppress news of the scandal. It’s unclear whether that is true: Two News International executives subsequently contradicted Murdoch’s testimony, saying they had provided him with evidence years earlier; Murdoch stood by his story.

    James Murdoch’s handling of the phone hacking scandal was seen as a major blow to his career and to his father’s hopes for a smooth succession plan. But just two years after his resignation from News International, he was promoted to co-chief operating officer of 21st Century Fox, and a year after that he became chief executive.

    He was just in time to again claim ignorance over widespread abuses at a media company he oversaw. We’ll find out soon if British regulators buy his story.

  • Media Matters raises alarm over Murdoch Sky bid in report to British competitions watchdog

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Media Matters for America submitted a report to the United Kingdom’s chief competitions watchdog illustrating the havoc that 21st Century Fox and the owners, the Murdochs, would wreak on the British media landscape if their bid to take over Sky PLC is approved. The report was submitted amid revelations that Rupert Murdoch, his sons, and 21st Century Fox attempted to suppress another wave of public scrutiny around Fox News’ sexual harassment epidemic in January of this year.

    Dealing a blow to the Murdochs’ hope for a swift approval, U.K. Culture Secretary Karen Bradley referred 21st Century Fox’s bid to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) for investigation on grounds of both broadcasting standards and media plurality. This followed an investigation by the U.K.’s chief broadcasting regulator, Ofcom, and calls for further investigation by members of Parliament and advocacy groups. Marking the second phase of an in-depth investigation, the CMA announced on October 10 that it would conduct a thorough look into the impact of a Fox-Sky merger on broadcasting codes and media plurality.

    Media Matters raised the following issues for the CMA to consider in its investigation:

    • 21st Century Fox is not serious about changing the overall culture at Fox News even in the wake of sexual harassment allegations made public. The company’s attempted cover-up of sexual harassment allegations against then-host Bill O’Reilly in January is the latest window into this reality. Beyond Fox News, there has been a long-standing pattern of harassment and discrimination in other Murdoch-owned media outlets that cannot be ignored.
    • British regulators should not fall for claims that specific Fox News programs -- like Fox & Friends and Hannity -- should be exempt from British broadcasting standards because they are “non-news” programs. The line separating opinion and news programming at the network at-large is a convenient fiction that viewers are unaware of and showrunners ignore. This was recently evidenced in the fabrication and promotion of the FoxNews.com story about the murder of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich.
    • Fox News’ latest partisan political coverage and prime-time lineup, and conflicts of interests among hosts and contributors, raise questions about 21st Century Fox’s commitment to impartiality standards, as set out in British broadcasting code. 
    • Fox News and other 21st Century Fox-owned broadcast outlets have demonstrated no improvement in reporting news with due accuracy and excluding offensive material across the network’s programs.

    In the report, Media Matters also recommended that the CMA request further information from 21st Century Fox about the status and findings of internal investigations regarding the now-retracted FoxNews.com Seth Rich story, workplace harassment and discrimination, and new compliance standards the Murdochs claimed to implement in May of this year.

    Latest evidence that 21st Century Fox and the Murdochs pose a threat to the British media landscape by Media Matters for America on Scribd:

    Media Matters has actively opposed 21st Century Fox’s takeover of Sky News since it was first announced. On March 30, Media Matters submitted, in partnership with global activism group Avaaz, a report to Ofcom that detailed the risks Murdochs' desired takeover of Sky poses to British broadcasting standards. Media Matters and Avaaz had previously submitted a report to Bradley 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 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. In September 2016, it was reported that Fox News had engaged in similar tactics, hacking the phone of a Media Matters reporter.

  • Statement of Angelo Carusone on Fox News possibly holding up the Murdochs' Sky takeover

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF


    Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch, and Lachlan Murdoch

    Media Matters President Angelo Carusone released the following statement after U.K. Culture Secretary Karen Bradley announced that she is minded to refer 21st Century Fox’s bid to take over Sky PLC to the Competitions and Market Authority (CMA) on broadcasting standards in addition to media plurality grounds:

    We are cautiously optimistic that Secretary Bradley is starting to acknowledge that the Murdochs and 21st Century Fox (21C Fox) have failed to demonstrate a commitment to abiding by the U.K.’s broadcasting standards.

    21C Fox's demonstrated culture of malfeasance and poor governance should have been more than sufficient to warrant outright rejection of 21C Fox’s bid to takeover Sky News without further investigation.

    One need not look too far to find near daily examples of 21C Fox’s rank political machinations and broken governance. For example, just recently 21C Fox’s CEO James Murdoch issued a public letter decrying white supremacy and intolerance and declared the necessity of combatting those forces. Yet, either because he is unwilling or unable, he has done nothing to address those very forces at Fox News, the network he runs.

    We urge Secretary Bradley, the CMA and all members of Parliament to continue to take serious the most recent developments at Fox News and 21C Fox that bring to light the Murdochs’ negligence in adhering to broadcasting standards and establishing strong compliance procedures and corporate governance systems.

    In August, Carusone wrote a letter to the British broadcasting regulator Ofcom sharing new evidence showing that 21st Century Fox and owner Rupert Murdoch’s family are not serious about complying with U.K. broadcasting standards should they be allowed to take over British satellite broadcaster Sky PLC.

    Carusone’s letter provides further evidence that 21st Century Fox and the Murdochs have not demonstrated a commitment to broadcasting standards, pointing to the corporation’s failure in recent months to:

    • publicly address revelations that the Trump administration met with a GOP operative and Fox News contributor about a now-debunked FoxNews.com report that pushed false claims about the murder of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich;

    • take disciplinary action against Fox News host Sean Hannity for his aggressive promotion of the debunked Rich story even after Fox News retracted it; and

    • address several other prominent instances of Fox News misleading its audience and promoting state-run propaganda that flies in the face of the compliance standards 21st Century Fox established on May 15 in accordance with Ofcom's recommendations.

    Previously, Carusone and Media Matters had issued a letter to Ofcom on June 13. 21st Century Fox's latest exhibition of tacit support for politically motivated misinformation and Fox News' pattern of uncritically promoting state propaganda should be enough to determine that the Murdochs' bid is not worth approving.

    The letters from Carusone follow a March 30 report Media Matters submitted, in partnership with global activism group Avaaz, to Ofcom that detailed the risks Murdoch’s desired takeover of Sky poses to British broadcasting standards.

    Before that, Media Matters and Avaaz submitted a report to Bradley 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. On March 16, Bradley referred Murdoch's takeover bid to Ofcom for a thorough investigation regarding concerns about  "media plurality and commitment to broadcasting standards."

    21st Century Fox already owns 39.1 percent of Sky. Murdoch abandoned a previous bid for full ownership 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 (who at the time ran the parent company of News Of The World and The Sun; he is now the CEO of 21st Century Fox) showed “wilful ignorance” of the industrial-scale hacking. In September 2016, it was reported that Fox News had engaged in similar tactics, hacking the phone of a Media Matters reporter.

  • Lawsuit ties Fox News’ “devious scheming” in Seth Rich reporting to Sky bid

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    A new lawsuit ties Fox News’ misconduct in its reporting of the murder of a Democratic staffer to parent company 21st Century Fox’s bid to takeover Sky PLC.

    NPR’s David Folkenflik reported today that Fox News contributor Rod Wheeler filed a defamation lawsuit stating that the conservative channel and a wealthy supporter of President Donald Trump “worked in concert under the watchful eye of the White House to concoct a story about the murder of” Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich, who was killed in what Washington D.C. police believe to be a botched robbery attempt in June 2016. Rich’s murder has been the subject of unfounded conspiracy theories in the conservative media, especially on Fox News.

    Fox News was forced to retract a story about Rich’s murder featuring quotes by Wheeler last May. According to NPR, Wheeler says that Fox “and the Trump supporter intended to deflect public attention from growing concern about the administration's ties to the Russian government. His suit charges that a Fox News reporter created quotations out of thin air and attributed them to him to propel her story.”

    Wheeler’s lawsuit connects Fox News’ conduct to parent company 21st Century Fox’s bid to take over Sky. Media Matters has opposed Fox’s bid for control of the British satellite broadcaster due to “the company’s demonstrated culture of malfeasance and governance deficiencies borne out of Executive Chairman Rupert Murdoch’s commitment to advancing his personal political agenda.”

    The suit states that while Fox executives claimed they “were completely transparent during” meetings with British regulators about the bid, those executives “failed to disclose the facts regarding Fox’s role in the effort to influence American politics by disseminating” the Rich story. The suit adds that the “devious scheming” involved in Fox’s mishandling of the story “is precisely why British regulators have yet to provide a green light to Fox for the Sky takeover bid, and why many U.K. politicians question whether Fox is capable of news dissemination in a fair and neutral manner.” From the complaint:

    96. As part of the U.K.’s takeover rules, government officials referred Fox’s takeover bid to Ofcom, the communications regulation agency tasked with investigating Fox and issuing a report as to whether Fox had a “commitment to broadcasting standards.” As part of the regulators’ inquiry, attention was focused on whether Fox was “fit and proper” to exert such enormous influence over U.K.’s news and media industries.

    97. In an effort to convince regulators that Fox was in compliance with the rules, senior executives from Fox participated in meetings with Ofcom investigators and provided testimony under oath. Specifically, Fox Executives, including [general counsel Gerson] Zweifach, met with regulators in London on March 27, 2017, April 11, 2017, May 11, 2017 and May 30, 2017, to alleviate concerns regarding Fox’s ability to influence the media.

    98. Despite public claims that Fox Executives were completely transparent during the Ofcom investigation, upon information and belief, Fox Executives failed to disclose the facts regarding Fox’s role in the effort to influence American politics by disseminating Zimmerman’s story.

    99. Clearly, senior level producers at Fox, as well as [Executive Vice President of legal and business affairs Dianne] Brandi and [Executive Vice President of news and editorial Jay] Wallace, were aware of the fact that Zimmerman’s article, while unsubstantiated, provided support to the Trump Administration’s desire to divert attention from the Russian email hacking scandal.

    100. It is hard to imagine a clearer example of Fox’s willingness and determination to influence the news agenda and the political process than a situation where it knowingly generates and publishes fake news to further its own political agenda.

    101. Such devious scheming is precisely why British regulators have yet to provide a green light to Fox for the Sky takeover bid, and why many U.K. politicians question whether Fox is capable of news dissemination in a fair and neutral manner.

  • Media Matters responds to the latest setback for 21st Century Fox’s bid to take over Sky

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Media Matters for America President Angelo Carusone released the following statement after U.K. Culture Secretary Karen Bradley announced that she was “minded” to refer 21st Century Fox’s bid to take over Sky PLC to the U.K. Competition and Markets Authority on grounds of media plurality:

    The government should not approve 21st Century Fox’s bid to take over Sky. It’s alarming that the company’s demonstrated culture of malfeasance and governance deficiencies borne out of Executive Chairman Rupert Murdoch’s commitment to advancing his personal political agenda has not already been sufficient to warrant outright rejection.

    The soft touch to which the government is treating Murdoch’s bid is also revealing -- it seems to come in part because of the disproportionate amount of political power and influence that Murdoch wields. As Secretary Bradley accurately notes, this takeover will give Murdoch even more power and influence. That kind of disproportionate control, especially in the hands of an already destructive entity, is not in anyone’s interest except Murdoch’s.

    Beware Murdoch’s promises and assurances. As we have noted, he has made an awful lot of them in the past in order to a secure a deal, only to swiftly disregard his word once the deal was finalized.

    In mid-June, Media Matters for America President Angelo Carusone sent a letter to the U.K.'s chief broadcasting regulator, Ofcom, highlighting a number of recent developments -- all of which concern Fox News -- that are pertinent to Ofcom’s investigation into the potential takeover of Sky PLC by Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox, Fox News’ parent company.

    The recent developments detailed in Media Matters' letter to Ofcom further underscore that Murdoch and his sons fail to satisfy the conditions necessary to acquire British satellite broadcasting company Sky in full and expose dangers that the bid for Sky would pose to the British public and media landscape.

    The letter from Carusone follows a March 30 report Media Matters submitted in partnership with global activism group Avaaz to Ofcom that detailed the risks Murdoch’s desired takeover of Sky poses to British broadcasting standards.

    Before that, Media Matters and Avaaz submitted a report to Secretary Bradley of the U.K. Department for Culture, Media and Sport that demonstrated that the risk of Foxification is too great to simply rubber-stamp a Murdoch takeover. On March 16, Bradley referred Murdoch's takeover bid to Ofcom for a thorough investigation on the grounds of "media plurality and commitment to broadcasting standards." The findings of the Ofcom investigation are due by June 20.

    21st Century Fox already owns 39.1 percent of Sky. Murdoch abandoned a previous bid for full ownership in light of an investigation into mass hacking 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 (who at the time ran the parent company of News Of The World and The Sun; he is now the CEO of 21st Century Fox) showed “wilful ignorance” of the industrial-scale hacking. In September of 2016, it was reported that Fox News had engaged in similar tactics, hacking the phone of Media Matters reporter Joe Strupp.

  • Media Matters to Ofcom: Latest developments at Fox News prove the Murdochs aren’t fit to take over Sky

    Murdochs could "Foxify" Sky News into a tool for meddling in British politics

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Media Matters for America President Angelo Carusone sent a letter to the U.K.'s chief broadcasting regulator, Ofcom, highlighting a number of recent developments -- all of which concern Fox News -- that are pertinent to Ofcom’s investigation into the potential takeover of Sky PLC by Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox, Fox News’ parent company. These developments include:

    The recent developments detailed in Media Matters' letter to Ofcom further underscore that Murdoch and his sons fail to satisfy the conditions necessary to acquire British satellite broadcasting company Sky in full and expose dangers that the bid for Sky would pose to the British public and to the British media landscape.

    The letter from Carusone follows a March 30th report Media Matters submitted in partnership with global activism group Avaaz to Ofcom that detailed the risks Rupert Murdoch’s desired takeover of Sky poses to British broadcasting standards.

    Before that, Media Matters and Avaaz submitted a report to Secretary Karen Bradley of the U.K. Department for Culture, Media and Sport that demonstrated that the risk of Foxification is too great to simply rubber-stamp a Murdoch takeover.  On March 16, U.K. Culture Secretary Bradley referred Murdoch's takeover bid to Ofcom for a thorough investigation on the grounds of "media plurality and commitment to broadcasting standards." The findings of the Ofcom investigation are due by June 20th.

    21st Century Fox already owns 39.1 percent of Sky. Murdoch abandoned a previous bid for full ownership in light of the investigation into mass hacking 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 (who at the time ran the parent company of News Of The World and The Sun and is now the CEO of 21st Century Fox) showed “wilful ignorance” of the industrial-scale hacking. In September of 2016, it was reported that Fox News had engaged in similar tactics, hacking the phone of Media Matters reporter Joe Strupp.

  • Nine Black Employees Are Now Suing Fox News For Racial Harassment

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Seven more African-American Fox News employees are expected to join two black colleagues who are suing the network for racial harassment from former comptroller Judy Slater and accounting director Tammy Efinger, according to a new report from New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman.

    This escalation in Fox’s legal troubles comes amid longtime host Bill O’Reilly’s ouster due to multiple sexual harassment allegations and an adviser exodus from his show, and Fox owner Rupert Murdoch’s bid to take over British satellite broadcasting company Sky News -- which threatens British broadcasting standards thanks to the toxic corporate culture exposed by allegations of widespread sexual and racial harassment at Murdoch’s key American TV network. It also comes as the explicit sexism and racism of Fox News continues to fester, with the leadership of Fox now under Bill Shine, a man who helped cover up harassment at the network by former chairman and CEO Roger Ailes.

    The network was originally forced to fire Slater after she made racist comments to co-workers. According to The New York Times, the original lawsuit from a Fox payroll manager and payroll coordinator alleges they were racially harassed with “racially charged comments” from Slater, “including suggestions that black men were ‘women beaters’ and that black people wanted to physically harm white people.” The lawsuit alleged, “Slater’s superiors did little to address her behavior, which created a hostile work environment that resulted in ‘severe and pervasive discrimination and harassment.’”

    New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman reported in an April 23 piece that seven other black employees plan to join this racial discrimination lawsuit. According to lawyers representing the affected employees, “Not once did Ms. Efinger step in or attempt to interfere with Ms. Slater’s outrageous conduct," instead “laugh[ing] or giggl[ing] following Ms. Slater’s vitriol.” The letter also details new racist, Jim Crow-era behavior from Fox’s accounting department, such as forcing the black employees to have “‘arm wrestling matches’ with white female employees in [Slater’s] office.” In an appearance discussing his report on MSNBC’s AM Joy, Sherman said these new descriptions of racist behavior at Fox “are really evident of a culture that is entrenched and that has not changed in the wake of Bill O'Reilly's departure.” From the report:

    The Murdochs hoped firing Bill O’Reilly would signal a changing culture at Fox News. “We want to underscore our consistent commitment to fostering a work environment built on the values of trust and respect,” Rupert and his sons, James and Lachlan, wrote in a memo to Fox News employees on Wednesday. But the dismissal of Fox News’s highest rated host isn’t going to end the crisis at the network. The toxic culture, fostered for 20 years by former CEO Roger Ailes, is proving far more difficult to remedy.

    Next week, according to sources, seven black Fox News employees plan to join a racial discrimination suit filed last month by two colleagues. The original lawsuit alleged that Fox News’s longtime comptroller, Judy Slater, subjected members of Fox’s payroll staff to racial insults for years. (Fox News fired Slater in February after those employees began litigation against the network.)

    Lawyers representing the payroll employees are demanding that Fox’s accounting director, Tammy Efinger, also be removed from supervising an employee because she allegedly participated in Slater’s racist behavior. In a letter to the network’s lawyers obtained by New York, the attorneys state: “Not once did Ms. Efinger step in or attempt to interfere with Ms. Slater’s outrageous conduct.” The letter adds, instead, “Ms. Efinger chose to laugh or giggle following Ms. Slater’s vitriol.”

    According to the plaintiffs’ attorneys, Slater demanded that black employees hold “arm wrestling matches’” with white female employees in her office, just down the hall from Ailes’s office on the 2nd floor of Fox headquarters. “Forcing a black woman employee to ‘fight’ for the amusement and pleasure of her white superiors is horrifying. This highly offensive and humiliating act is reminiscent of Jim Crow era battle royals,” the letter says, referring to the practice of paying black men to fight blindfolded at carnivals for white spectators’ entertainment. The lawyers argue that Efinger bragged about wanting to “fight” a black employee.

  • 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.