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James Murdoch

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  • 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.

  • The infrastructure that enabled serial sexual harassment at Fox is still working

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    A new report from The New York Times has revealed still more horrifying details of both former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly’s serial sexual misconduct and the almost equally horrifying extent to which 21st Century Fox executives attempted to keep his pattern of harassment from the public eye. The Times report, detailing actions taken earlier this year, offers compelling evidence of an entire infrastructure of misogyny and abuse still at work at 21st Century Fox.

    On October 21, The New York Times’ Emily Steel and Michael Schmidt reported that 21st Century Fox, Fox News’ parent company, had known of a recent settlement O’Reilly made following sexual harassment claims when it renewed his contract at the start of this year.

    The case was settled with now-former Fox legal analyst Lis Wiehl for an astounding $32 million, and it reportedly addressed complaints of “repeated harassment, a nonconsensual sexual relationship and the sending of gay pornography and other sexually explicit material.” The extraordinarily high sum that O’Reilly paid, along with the limited reporting on the contents of the case, suggest very serious reports of assault were made. (As a condition of the settlement, Wiehl signed an affidavit saying she “would no longer make the allegations contained in the draft complaint.”)

    The $32 million settlement is shocking because of its amount, but arguably less so in what it suggests about the extent of O’Reilly’s misconduct. The public is, after all, all too familiar with the toxic patterns of abusive, powerful men.

    The truly astounding aspect of this new report is the way the settlement was handled at 21st Century Fox and by its leaders, the Murdochs: with the uncompromising goal of preserving business (and profit) as usual. As the report says:

    In January, the reporting shows, Rupert Murdoch and his sons, Lachlan and James, the top executives at 21st Century Fox, made a business calculation to stand by Mr. O’Reilly despite his most recent, and potentially most explosive, harassment dispute.

    Their decision came as the company was trying to convince its employees, its board and the public that it had cleaned up the network’s workplace culture. At the same time, they were determined to hold on to Mr. O’Reilly,  whose value to the network increased after the departure of another prominent host, Megyn Kelly.

    But by April, the Murdochs decided to jettison Mr. O’Reilly as some of the settlements became public and posed a significant threat to their business empire.

    Sources told Steel and Schmidt that 21st Century Fox executives knew of the Wiehl settlement as they moved to renew O’Reilly’s contract in the beginning of the year. In a statement to the Times, 21st Century Fox said that it was not privy to the unusually high amount paid in the settlement. Even if the Murdochs were somehow not taking into account any other report made about O’Reilly’s serial harassment -- the earliest known incident of which took place in 2004 -- they were undoubtedly aware of this very new and specific reported misconduct as they oversaw contract matters at the start of the year. On the Times podcast The Daily, Steel and Schmidt further explained:

    MICHAEL SCHMIDT: The larger context here is that Fox knew about all of [O’Reilly’s settlements for misconduct], except they say they didn’t know about the size of the Lis Wiehl deal, when they gave him a contract extension in February. Now the important thing is that Fox News never investigated these accusations, and they never asked O’Reilly’s lawyers what the dollar figure was.

    EMILY STEEL: Something interesting about that, though, is that the woman that he reached the settlement with was a 15-year legal analyst at Fox News.

    MICHAEL BARBARO (HOST): So there was, it sounds like, a pretty meticulous attempt by Fox to take this out of the realm of employment law and of employee relations.

    21s Century Fox and the Murdochs’ response to Wiehl’s alarming report and the news of a settlement was not to raise said alarm, but to encourage active silence. They simply decided to add language to O’Reilly’s new contract that would allow Fox to fire him should new reports of harassment surface. This was more or less the same course of action taken elsewhere in the entertainment industry just two years earlier, when we now know that members of The Weinstein Co. board similarly added language to serial sexual predator Harvey Weinstein’s 2015 employment contract to account for any new reports of misconduct.

    A statement from O’Reilly’s attorney, in response to the October 21 Times report, bafflingly offers the claimed defense that Fox itself has paid nearly $100 million in settlements for workplace sexual harassment to “dozens of women [who] accused scores of male employees.” If this statement is accurate, not only is it not a defense in any way, but it also magnifies how structural and cultural misogyny has flourished at Fox for so long.

    What we’re seeing now at Fox, more and more clearly with each new revelation about O’Reilly and many other employees, is what Times culture writers Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris called an “infrastructure of abuse” when describing the Harvey Weinstein reports. Of course, workplace sexual harassment is prevalent across industries and communities, and to some extent said “infrastructure,” unfortunately, simply seems to be society at large. But on a micro scale, 21st Century Fox, like Weinstein’s Hollywood, is a remarkable case study of how privilege for powerful men is embedded into entire institutions, from top to bottom, department to department, in public and in private.

    21st Century Fox has developed an entire cultural infrastructure of actors and systems that enabled misogyny and abuse to continue for decades without interruption. And the details of the Times report, focused on actions taken just months ago, reveal this infrastructure has yet to be removed. This is how we know it operates, in practice.

    Fox's signature on-air misogyny translates into real-life harassment, or worse

    Fox leaders, like former CEO Roger Ailes, and on-air personalities, spewing misogyny in their daily work, sometimes translate that hatred for women into real-life harassment or worse. Like the on-air actions, it is also often repeated behavior.

    Ineffective internal reporting systems offer no real justice

    Fox decision-makers create systems where reporting to human resources doesn’t feel like a real option or has proven itself not to be. In a Times report from July 2016, nearly a dozen women who experienced harassment at Fox told the Times that “they were reluctant to go to the human resources department with their complaints for fear that they would be fired.” And just this morning, former Fox News host Megyn Kelly agreed that “Fox News was not exactly a friendly environment for harassment victims who wanted to report, in my experience,” and said O’Reilly was “permitted, with management’s advanced notice and blessing, to go on the air and attack the company’s harassment victims.” She also noted the “vindictiveness” of Irena Briganti, who still works as media relations chief at Fox and is known for pushing negative stories about women who reported Ailes.

    And yet, in his statements about the sexual harassment reports, O’Reilly has chosen to use this structural flaw at his workplace as though it’s evidence of his innocence: “In the more than 20 years Bill O'Reilly worked at Fox News, not one complaint was filed against him with the Human Resources Department or Legal Department by a coworker, even on the anonymous hotline.” (This fear and distrust of a weak internal reporting system is also one we’ve heard in the reports about Harvey Weinstein, whose company’s human resources department was described as “utterly ineffective” -- and it’s another aspect of the Fox infrastructure that’s reflected in society at large. One study concluded that about 70 percent of women who experience workplace harassment do not report it, for fear of retaliation.)

    If an employee chooses to report, she will face internal attempts to silence her

    If Fox employees do choose to report sexual harassment or other misconduct, they may face internal attempts to keep them silent. During Ailes’ reign, those attempts reportedly included personal meetings and surveillance designed to intimidate women into withdrawing complaints, as well as individual efforts to bury reports. After Ailes left Fox, he was replaced, at the Murdochs’ command, by two individuals who were reportedly implicated in these efforts. One, Bill Shine, was forced out of the network. The other remains on staff, along with many others who were complicit in silencing employees who came forward, all under the continued leadership of the Murdochs.

    An employee who reports misconduct could also face legal challenges

    Employees reporting sexual misconduct may also face legal challenges stemming from their employment contracts or from powerful lawyers hired by Fox itself or the men they’ve reported. Former Fox host Gretchen Carlson, who reached a $20 million settlement following her reports that Roger Ailes had repeatedly sexually harassed her, has discussed the legal difficulties she faced in coming forward. Her activism now specifically focuses on combating forced arbitration clauses in employment contracts, which can keep survivors of harassment or assault from pursuing legal justice publicly.

    Such legal challenges mean that the women who are harassed at Fox often quietly reach settlements and leave. They may have signed nondisclosure agreements designed to keep them from speaking up. They may have written letters or affidavits rescinding their reports as conditions of the settlements. (These were also common tactics used by Harvey Weinstein.) Or they may simply have recognized what little power they really had and decided not to speak publicly.

    21st Century Fox does whatever else it can to keep reports from becoming public

    Fox executives then do whatever else they can to keep news of sexual misconduct from becoming public information. They commit their company to paying over $100 million, according to O’Reilly’s lawyer, in settlements. Perhaps they work to bury those settlements from public view, or hide them through financial tricks that may be improper or even illegal. And they add clauses to new contracts to keep it from happening again, maybe, hopefully.

    If reports do become public, 21st Century Fox only acts to save its bottom line

    If news of sexual misconduct does become public at any point, Fox News executives take action only in so much as they must to save their bottom line. Fox fired O’Reilly only when he began to cost the network too much money -- not just in the settlements it may have helped him to pay, but in advertising dollars. He was also making 21st Century Fox look bad in a very public way, at a time when it was eager to appear “fit and proper” to expand its reach in the U.K. by taking over Sky news.

    When 21st Century Fox is forced to publicly act as a “fit and proper” employer might, as during the height of the O’Reilly reports in the spring, it has launched “independent investigations.” But these examinations are almost always conducted by the same law firm, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, that conducted its sham investigation after Ailes was fired.

    The proof that these actions -- the suspensions, investigations, and even firings -- have only ever been about the bottom line is all too clear: With that U.K. bid still under review, but with Fox News’ Hannity now up against the very popular MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, O’Reilly was invited back onto the network for a ratings-thirsty appearance on the show last month.

    If someone is fired amid reports of sexual misconduct, they are free to launch public attacks 

    When Fox is forced to fire someone reported for serial sexual harassment, it pays him millions of dollars on the way out and speaks only nicely of him going forward. Its other on-air talent, however, is left to publicly take sides (actually, just the one side) and smear at will anyone who came forward. Scottie Nell Hughes, a conservative commentator who stepped up earlier this year to say Fox Business host Charles Payne raped her, told The Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan she’s now being ostracized by media writ large. (Payne was reinstated at the network following an internal investigation by, you guessed it -- Paul Weiss -- stemming from earlier reports made by Hughes.)

    And the men who Fox was forced to suspend or fire are allowed to defend themselves, and publicly attack the women who reported them, by all means available, sometimes with the active encouragement of current Fox employees. Fox's Sean Hannity, for example, not only hosted O'Reilly on his show just last month, but also hosted O'Reilly on his radio program to attack one of the women who reported him. Today, Hannity promoted an appearance by O'Reilly on fellow former Fox news host Glenn Beck's radio program -- an appearance in which the former host claimed his firing was a "hit job" by biased media. O'Reilly continues to enjoy a platform to speak his mind, courtesy of the media and his friends at Fox. 

    This is what it means to have an entire infrastructure working against you, as a survivor: Imagine that you work at Fox News, and tomorrow you are sexually harassed by a supervisor at work. What paths would seem like real options for justice? 

    What you’re thinking right now? That’s how we know nothing has changed at 21st Century Fox.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • How Bill Shine Has Been Implicated In Fox News' Ongoing Legal Disasters

    ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    The Murdoch family might be looking to replace Bill Shine as co-president of Fox News after multiple reports named Shine as being complicit in burying sexual harassment complaints by helping to coordinate smear campaigns against women who reported harassment, or pushing them to settle and sign nondisclosure agreements. Shine has also been tied to a racial discrimination and harassment lawsuit against the network, and has been named in a more recent lawsuit for surveilling the private communications of a former Fox host who sued the network for harassment.

  • Read The Report Explaining The Danger Of Murdoch’s Sky Takeover

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Update: According to reports, U.K. Culture Secretary Karen Bradley will refer the Murdoch takeover bid of Sky to British media regulator Ofcom “to investigate potential public interest issues on two grounds”:

    Ofcom will look at whether Fox’s takeover will raise issues of UK media plurality and concentration in Murdoch’s control. The deal will give him full control of Sky News, as well as the Times, Sunday Times and Sun newspapers and the radio group TalkSport, through a separate company News Corp.

    The second issue is whether Fox is committed to the required editorial standards, such as accuracy and impartial news coverage.

    In parliament, Tom Watson, shadow culture secretary, questioned whether Bradley’s referral on broadcasting standards grounds would give Ofcom the power to investigate issues including phone hacking and corporate governance failures

    Bradley said: “None of the representations [made by Fox] have led me to dismiss the concerns I have regarding the two public interest grounds I previously specified.”

    Original Post: Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox is currently trying to take full control of the United Kingdom satellite broadcasting company Sky -- which oversees Sky News. Such a move would increase media consolidation in the U.K., and it raises concerns that the Murdochs could seek to turn Sky News into a right-wing propaganda outlet like Fox News. In the coming days, U.K. Culture Secretary Karen Bradley will decide whether to refer Murdoch’s bid to the British media regulator Ofcom for review.

    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.

    Due to this lengthy history of Murdoch corruption and duplicity, Media Matters submitted a report in partnership with the global activism group Avaaz to the U.K. Department for Culture, Media and Sport. The report details for Secretary Bradley the dangers this bid for Sky would pose to the British public and to the British media landscape. The risk of Foxification is too great to simply rubber-stamp a Murdoch takeover.

    Murdoch, the Fox Effect and Trump: How the Sky takeover could poison Britain’s public debate by Media Matters for America on Scribd

  • Media Matters Requests Fox Retain All Info Regarding Allegations Roger Ailes Sought Our Reporter’s Phone Records

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The Huffington Post is reporting that Media Matters has requested Fox News executives and former CEO Roger Ailes “retain any information in their possession or control” that could be relevant  to the network allegedly obtaining the phone records of one of its journalists through “legally questionable means” in order to identify his anonymous sources at the network.

    New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman reported on September 2, that Fox News had “obtained the phone records of journalists, by legally questionable means,” including the home and cell phone records of Media Matters’ senior reporter Joe Strupp, in an effort to find Strupp’s anonymous sources at the network.

    Media Matters president Bradley Beychok responded to the egregious allegations and said that the organization is “considering all legal options” available and that “anyone involved in the illegal hacking should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

    According to the Huffington Post, Media Matters has sent letters to Fox News’ attorneys taking legal steps to ensure that any relevant information about Gabriel Sherman’s allegations is retained:

    Media Matters attorney Marc Elias sent letters Friday to attorneys representing Ailes and executives at Fox News and parent company 21st Century Fox, including executive chairman Rupert Murdoch and sons Lachlan and James Murdoch, who serve as executive chairman and chief executive, respectively.

    In the letters, Elias requested Ailes and executives at the media companies retain any information in their possession or control that would be relevant to allegations of surveilling Media Matters employees.

    Strupp reported in 2010 on Fox News management slanting Washington coverage to the right and cited anonymous sources at the network. Sherman wrote that Fox News wanted to find out who was speaking to Strupp. “This was the culture,” one Fox News executive told Sherman. “Getting phone records doesn’t make anybody blink.”

    In addition to Strupp, Elias also revealed in the letters that it “appears that Fox News Channel previously obtained telephone records of Media Matters founder David Brock in 1997.” Brock, a former Republican operative turned liberal Clinton booster, wrote a critical profile of Ailes that year for New York magazine. Brock started Media Matters in 2004 to combat what the group deemed conservative misinformation, with Fox News being one of its primary targets.

    “Media Matters takes these reports very seriously and is prepared to take all measures necessary to protect its rights, including initiating a lawsuit against Fox News Channel,” Elias wrote in a letter to the network. “We therefore demand that Fox News Channel take immediate action to preserve all information relating to the Media Matters Surveillance that is in the possession, custody, or control of Fox News Channel, including information held by third parties from whom Fox News Channel could obtain the information or over whom Fox News Channel exercises control.”

    Media Matters is similarly prepared to take legal action if necessary against Ailes and 21st Century Fox, according to the letters published in full below.

  • The Drastically Different Way Howard Kurtz Covers Murdoch Scandals Now That He Works For Fox News

    Fox's Media Critic Gives News Corp. A Pass Despite Being Previously Critical Of Fox For Ignoring Its Parent Company's Own Scandals

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVIA KITTEL

    Kurtz

    In a report on the Murdoch restructure of Fox News' parent company, Fox's Howard Kurtz glazed over the 2011 phone hacking controversy that implicated the Murdoch family in England -- a stark contrast to Kurtz's critical reporting of how Fox News avoided coverage of the scandal while he worked for CNN.

    Rupert Murdoch is reportedly planning to step down as CEO of Fox News' parent company 21st Century Fox. According to CNBC, Murdoch's son James will take over as CEO and son Lachlan will assume the role of "executive co-chairman" of the company in coordination with their father. James Murdoch previously resigned his role as the head of News International -- which published several tabloids and newspapers abroad -- amid the widespread scandal over phone hacking at News of the World, a since-shuttered UK tabloid he oversaw. As part of the fallout from that scandal, Murdoch also resigned his position as chairman of UK satellite broadcaster BSkyB.

    On the June 14 edition of Fox News' Media Buzz, host Howard Kurtz used news of the company restructuring as an opportunity to highlight Rupert Murdoch's career, praising him for bringing "huge changes to the media landscape," including "conquering the world of British newspapers, revolutionizing TV sports here in the states, launching the fourth American broadcast network, and of course building a hugely successful and profitable cable news network." To highlight Murdoch's influence, Kurtz added that  "when something goes wrong like the phone hacking scandal at the now defunct News of the World, he gets the blame."

    Kurtz's report glazing over Murdoch's involvement in the phone hacking scandal and mentioning it only as a way to highlight the former CEO's influence stands in stark contrast to the way Fox's media critic covered the scandal while working for CNN.

    In July 2011, as the host of CNN's Reliable Sources, Kurtz criticized Fox News for underplaying coverage of Murdoch's phone hacking scandal which involved Fox's then-parent company News Corp., and said that news networks that avoid covering their own controversies create "a double standard" and "undermine your credibility":

    KURTZ: I feel very strongly about this. I mean, we do it on this program all the time when CNN has controversy, I always cover it. And otherwise, what you're signaling to viewers is there's a double standard. We're only aggressive when some other organization is in trouble. And I think that can undermine your credibility.

    Kurtz has made a habit of ignoring controversies related to Fox News during his employment at the network, despite promising to bring an "independent brand of media criticism" to Fox.

  • The Murdochs' Generational Culture Of Corruption

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    It's good to be the king. Or in the case of James Murdoch, it's good to be the son of the king.

    In announcing that his sons James and Lachlan will be largely taking control of his sprawling media company, press baron Rupert Murdoch did what observers always knew he wanted to do: pass on to his children the worldwide conglomerate that he's built over the last five decades. In the United Sates, of course, that means handing over to his sons one of most important and influential voices in right-wing media and far-right politics, Fox News.

    James Murdoch will soon be named CEO of 21st Century Fox, while Lachlan Murdoch will become executive chairman alongside their father, who for now will reportedly maintain a daily presence at the company. Fox News kingpin Roger Ailes will continue to report directly to the senior Murdoch. (Noticeably absent from the succession plans is daughter Elisabeth, a respected media executive who has at times been publicly critical of her brother James.)

    That long-awaited changeover was thrown into doubt when the sweeping phone-hacking scandal in England rocked the Murdoch family and their media properties.

    Watching father Rupert and son James testify before skeptical members of Parliament in 2011 as the duo did their best to explain away the media scandal raised some doubts about whether the sons would be best-suited to succeed their father. In 2011, more than a third of News Corp. shareholders who voted at a meeting declared that they were not. But of course, while being a publicly traded company, the Murdoch family controls about 40% of the voting shares of News Corp., the publishing operation (New York PostWall Street Journal), and 21st Century Fox, which contains the more profitable TV and film operations, including Fox News.

    With James Murdoch's public reputation quickly sinking against the hacking backdrop in 2012, he was jettisoned far away from the scandal klieg lights of London and fitted for a Murdoch corporate job in Los Angeles, where he worked until his latest promotion. As the New York Times points out, "in hindsight, the departure of [James] Murdoch and his removal from involvement with News Corporation's British holdings can be seen as part of a calculated strategy to insulate him from the scandal there and resurrect him in the sprawling media company controlled by his father." 

    Still, UK media regulator Ofcom's report on the hacking debacle excoriated James' leadership, or lack thereof, and concluded that the younger Murdoch "repeatedly fell short of the conduct to be expected of as a chief executive and chairman" as the company engaged in phone hacking and that his failure to stop the wrongdoing was "difficult to comprehend and ill-judged.

    In the end, James Murdoch had the right last name and survived the scandal; the type of criminal and political upheaval that not many media companies have had to endure in recent memory. Then again, not many media companies at times resemble a low-level criminal enterprise, which is what Murdoch's empire looked like for years as it hacked into private phone voicemails of the royal family, star athletes and celebrities in search of juicy gossip. In recent years, Murdoch employees have allegedly not only hacked into phones, computers and emails, but also paid off news sources.

  • James Murdoch Reportedly Taking Over As CEO Of Fox News' Parent Company

    UPDATE: Roger Ailes Will Report To James And Lachlan, New Report Also Indicates Ailes Aired Rogue Statement On Fox

    Blog ››› ››› BEN DIMIERO

    Roger Ailes

    Rupert Murdoch is reportedly planning to step down as CEO of Fox News parent company 21st Century Fox "and hand that title to his son James," according to CNBC. James Murdoch previously resigned his role as the head of News International -- which published several tabloids and newspapers abroad -- amid the widespread scandal over phone hacking at News of the World, a since-shuttered UK tabloid he oversaw. As part of the fallout from that scandal, Murdoch also resigned his position as chairman of UK satellite broadcaster BSkyB.

    According to CNBC, "Rupert Murdoch will continue to be the executive chairman of Fox, while his son Lachlan would also become an executive co-chairman of the company."

    James Murdoch has reportedly drawn the ire of Fox News chief Roger Ailes, who allegedly called him a "fucking dope" over his inability to contain the hacking scandal. (Fox News media critic Howard Kurtz claims that despite James Murdoch's new position, "Ailes will still report to Rupert.")

    A source quoted by CNBC claims "James will have the primary role in running Fox while Lachlan will take on a broader strategic role from his co-chairman position." Lachlan Murdoch has also reportedly butted heads with Ailes in the past.

    As Media Matters previously noted, James Murdoch donated between $1,000,001 and $5,000,000 to the Clinton Foundation, which has been the target of a smear campaign by conservative media figures, including near-constant scandal-mongering on Fox News.

    According to federal filings, James Murdoch donated $2,300 -- the maximum amount allowed for an individual -- to Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign. A review of the OpenSecrets database shows Murdoch has donated to both sides of the aisle, including multiple donations to the National Republican Congressional Committee and various elected Republicans like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Lindsey Graham, as well as Democrats like Sen. Cory Booker and Rep. Steny Hoyer.

    UPDATE: 

    Contrary to what Fox News reported last week, 21st Century Fox released a statement to the Hollywood Reporter saying that Ailes will not report directly to Rupert Murdoch. Instead, the Fox News chief "will report to Lachlan and James but will continue his unique and long-standing relationship with Rupert."

    New York magazine writer Gabriel Sherman reports that Ailes himself ordered Fox Business to read "what now appears to be a rogue statement" on-air last week that suggested he would not be directly affected by the change in management:

    Just five days earlier, Ailes released what now appears to be a rogue statement to his own Fox Business channel declaring that he would be unaffected by the announcement that Lachlan and James will take control of Fox as part of Rupert's succession plan. "Roger Ailes will continue to run the news network, reporting directly to Rupert Murdoch," Fox Business reported. According to a well-placed source, Ailes directed Fox Business executive Bill Shine to tell anchor Stuart Varney to read the statement on air. "Ailes told Shine to write the announcement of the move for Varney to say," the source said. "In it, Ailes inserted language that he would report to Rupert."

    This was, apparently, news to Rupert. And now the Murdochs are correcting the record. "Roger will report to Lachlan and James," a 21st Century Fox spokesperson told The Hollywood Reporter.

    Watch the video of Varney reading the "rogue" statement below:

  • CNBC Contributor: Time Warner Board Justified In Fighting Hostile Takeover By Murdoch Family

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    CNBC panelist Jeffrey Sonnenfeld suggested that 21st Century Fox's effort to acquire Time Warner is driven by a nepotistic desire to provide Rupert Murdoch's "poor performing" sons with pieces of the family business and highlighted News Corp.'s phone hacking scandal as an example of the Murdoch family's questionable management record.

    Time Warner's board of directors took measures to prevent a hostile takeover by Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox by "eliminating a provision in its bylaws that let shareholders call special meetings" -- a move that would prevent shareholders from forcing a vote on the takeover until June 2015.

    Panelists on the July 22 edition of Squawk Box suggested Fox's offer undervalues Time Warner. Sonnenfeld, also a dean at the Yale School of Management, went on to say the takeover effort was part of the Murdoch family's plan to "deal with potential succession" by acquiring large businesses to hand over to Murdoch's sons, James Murdoch and Lachlan Murdoch. But Sonnenfeld described the sons as "poor performing" managers, saying in particular that James Murdoch had been tainted by the phone hacking scandal at News Corp.

    SONNENFELD: This is basically a deal for Rupert to eventually -- an 83-year-old guy who's run the company for 62 years -- to try to deal with these perpetual succession questions by giving, you know, Lachlan, one son one piece of the business -- one, you know, poor-performing son -- the other poor-performing son, James, another piece of the business in the News Corp.-21st Century Fox split here. But all this [unintelligible] --

    ANDREW ROSS SORKIN (host): So you are not a fan of the Murdoch family, it sounds like.

    SONNENFELD: Well, they've not distinguished themselves as leaders. You know, Lachlan had a temper tantrum and left a couple years ago and just came back in this spring with this deal for News Corp. liberation of sorts. And then the 21st Century Fox, we have James, who certainly has soiled himself in the whole scandal -- the phone hacking and all the rest in the U.K. And at minimum, a failure of management oversight is awful. Even Fox's shareholders were pretty upset with him.