Rupert Murdoch

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  • 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.

  • These are the right-wing/fringe media figures Trump supposedly communicates with

    Based on reporting and the people themselves, Trump is on the phone with right-wing media and fringe figures a lot

    Blog ››› ››› SARAH WASKO & CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Alex Jones, Infowars host:

    “Trump gave me a call, and I told him, ‘Mr. President-elect, you’re too busy, we don’t need to talk.’ But we still spent over five minutes -- he said, 'Listen, Alex, I just talked to the kings and queens of the world -- world leaders, you name it.' But he said, 'It doesn’t matter, I wanted to talk to you to thank your audience, and I’ll be on in the next few weeks to thank them.'” Jones added that Trump indicated it was not a “private call” and told him, “I want to thank your viewers, thank your listeners for standing up for this republic. We know what you did early on and throughout this campaign to stand up for what’s right.” -- Alex Jones [Media Matters, 11/14/16]

    “As I said in one speech, ‘I’m sorry I missed Trump’s call.’ I know the numbers. I know when he calls. He calls like three times in a row. I was on air. He gets confused. He called me and I missed the calls and I just feel guilty because who knows what it was about. And I know Trump doesn’t -- I’ll tell the enemy this because Trump knows it’s true. They need to know this. Trump just wants to connect with a spirit that is good. He needs that energy.” -- Alex Jones [Media Matters, 2/24/17]

    “You and others have reached out and said, “If you talk to Trump, tell him this.” Half the time I’ve missed the calls and other ones, early on, calls were like 15 minutes long. We really talk. Now it’s like, “Alex. Lot of folks watching.” He knows everything he’s saying is being recorded. “Keep it up, great job. How’s the family? Just keep it up, you know I’m delivering. Are you happy?” It’s mainly a pat on the head, and I get that -- but then I talk to folks that have to go have private meetings with him and he’s just literally just like -- and I can’t get into it.” -- Alex Jones [Media Matters, 4/5/17]

    “You know why the FBI admits a month ago in Congress that I’m under investigation and that I’m being wiretapped? Because I talk to the president and I talk to people that talk to the president every day. And they want to be able to say, ‘Mr. President, he’s under investigation -- you can’t talk to Alex Jones.’” -- Alex Jones [Media Matters, 4/12/17]

    Sean Hannity, Fox News host:

    “But the fact is I know from the White House that no one in media talks to President [Donald] Trump more than Sean Hannity. Sean Hannity talks to President Trump two or three times a day, sometimes at length, and I'll just tell you right now, Sean Hannity is currently the main leader of the resistance against the globalists outside of Trump and then, of course, myself.” -- Alex Jones [Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 6/22/17]

    Chris Ruddy, Newsmax CEO:

    “Ruddy has been a ubiquitous presence in Trump’s sphere over the past several months, the ‘Zelig’ of the administration, as the Atlantic’s Rosie Gray wrote. He converses regularly with Trump and White House officials, and says he has given the president advice on everything from health care to Chinese relations to fake news.” [The Washington Post, 6/15/17]

    Corey Lewandowski, One America News Network commentator, and David Bossie, Fox contributor:

    “President Donald Trump personally reached out to two of his former campaign aides – his first campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, and his deputy campaign manager, David Bossie – to sound them out about working with the administration as crisis managers, according to two people familiar with the situation.” [Politico, 5/22/17]

    Kimberly Guilfoyle, Fox News host:

    KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE (CO-HOST): I don't think this is a deal that anybody should be crying about. Like we said, it's nonbinding, and the United States is already a clean energy, oil and gas leader. So, we can keep doing what we're doing, we can keep reducing our emissions. Why would we in fact put ourselves at an economic disadvantage, giving and subsidizing an economic windfall to other countries, in sort of a climate redistribution of wealth scheme? It makes no sense to me. I think he did the brave and courageous thing, and in fact, I told him that this morning at 8 a.m., when he called. And I spoke to him about it, and this was something very much so on his mind, but he seemed like--

    GREG GUTFELD (CO-HOST): Wait a second, who called you?

    GUILFOYLE: The president.

    GUTFELD: Why?

    DANA PERINO (CO-HOST): To ask about climate change?

    GUTFELD: Why did he call you?

    GUILFOYLE: Climate change, taxes. The Five. [Fox News, The Five, 6/1/17]

    Roger Stone, Infowars contributor:

    GUEST CO-HOST: When was the last time you talked to him?

    ROGER STONE: Been a little while now. I would say -- I don’t want to characterize it, but less than a week ago.

    GUEST CO-HOST: Good talk?

    STONE: From time to time. He’s easier to find on the weekends. He’s got more time on his hands. But I’m happy to say after I was on with George Stephanopoulos, he called. After I was on with Chuck Todd, he called. After the Netflix document trailer was released, he called.

    GUEST CO-HOST: What’d he say?

    STONE: Well, I mean, he was certainly pleased with those appearances because, of course, I was happy to defend Donald Trump. [SiriusXM Patriot, The David Webb Show, 5/5/17]

    “On May 11th Roger Stone, Donald Trump’s on-again, off-again political adviser for several decades, had just wrapped up a pair of morning television appearances when, according to two sources with direct knowledge, he received a call from the President. ... As Stone left the studio on May 11th, the President, who the evening before had essentially pretended not to know him anymore, had a simple message: good job.” [The New Yorker, 5/31/17]

    Eric Bolling, Fox News host:

    “Fox News host Eric Bolling said he’s talked to President Donald Trump about how to best go about “draining the swamp” — one of Trump’s top campaign promises and the central topic of the cable-news star’s latest book. [...] Bolling said the president has read his book, and he’s had several discussions with him about how to best go about fighting corruption.” [The Daily Caller, 6/26/17]

    Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corp. and 21st Century Fox, CEO of Fox News:

    “The president’s relationship with Mr. Murdoch is deeper and more enduring than most in his life, and the two commiserate and plot strategy in their phone calls, according to people close to both.” [The New York Times, 4/22/17]

  • 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.

  • Murdoch Is Reportedly Advising Trump While DOJ Investigates Fox

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Fox News owner and CEO Rupert Murdoch is reportedly advising President Donald Trump on a near-daily basis at the same time as the Justice Department is investigating his company, an ethical breach that could undermine the credibility of the inquiry.

    The Justice Department is currently engaged in a wide-ranging investigation of Fox News. The inquiry includes a review of the network’s “settlements made with women who alleged sexual harassment by former Fox News boss Roger Ailes,” as well as “possible misconduct by Fox News personnel” over a period of years, and has grown to include the United States Postal Inspection Service, which has jurisdiction over some financial crimes, according to CNN.

    The investigation is complicated by the ongoing relationship between Murdoch and Trump. “The president speaks to Murdoch now almost every day,” with Murdoch advising Trump on an array of foreign and domestic policy issues, according to a report by The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman. According to Haberman, the Fox chief also regularly talks to Trump aide and son-in-law Jared Kushner.

    The situation raises questions about whether Trump or his subordinates are communicating with the Justice Department about the Fox investigation, according to Kathleen Clark, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis whose specialty is government ethics. “Are they monitoring or attempting to influence that investigation, or is DOJ able to act independently in its investigation of a company owned by a friend of the President?” she wrote in an email to Media Matters.

    “This [White House] isn't abiding by the same limits on WH-DOJ communications as previous administrations,” she added, pointing out that White House officials reportedly asked the FBI and other agencies in February to rebut media reports about communications between Russians and Trump associates. As CNN noted at the time, “Such a request from the White House is a violation of procedures that limit communications with the FBI on pending investigations.”

    Communications between the White House and the DOJ “regarding pending or potential criminal or civil investigations or cases” are restricted in order to maintain DOJ’s independence under a 2009 memorandum that is still in force.

    Trump and Murdoch have a long and complicated relationship that has metamorphosed as Trump rose to power and became potentially useful for Murdoch’s goal of expanding his media holdings.

    They have known each other for decades, but historically disliked one another, with Murdoch reportedly describing Trump as a “phony.” During early stages of the 2016 presidential campaign, Murdoch repeatedly criticized Trump’s comments about immigrants and reportedly pushed his media outlets to scrutinize the candidate.

    But once it became clear that Trump would be the GOP nominee, Murdoch turned Fox into an unrelenting pro-Trump propaganda outlet in order to ensure what New York magazine termed “an open line to the new administration” if Trump won. They also repeatedly met during and after the campaign.

    On Thursday, Murdoch introduced Trump as “my friend” during an event celebrating U.S.- Australian relations and commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea. In turn, Trump bragged about donating to the American Australian Association after entreaties from Murdoch, commenting: “Now I realize that was money well spent. That's right. Right, Rupert?”

    That friendship has been potentially lucrative for Murdoch’s media empire. Murdoch has for decades opposed federal regulations that aim to prevent the consolidation of too much media power in too few hands, and in Trump, he may have found a president willing to allow him to expand his empire even further.

    Soon after his election, Trump reportedly asked Murdoch for a list of potential nominees for Federal Communications Commission chairman. Trump’s selection, Ajit Pai, is a fierce opponent of the regulations that have capped the expansion of Murdoch’s companies. Pai’s FCC has already overturned an Obama-era rule that had blocked Murdoch’s Fox Television Stations from trying to buy Tribune Media’s 42 television stations. Further relaxing of regulations could allow Murdoch to purchase newspapers across the country as well.

    Fox News has previously been quick to decry the appearance of impropriety when investigations were both led by and targeted Democrats. During the 2016 presidential campaign, the network’s hosts and guests frequently suggested that President Barack Obama and Attorney General Loretta Lynch were refusing to prosecute Hillary Clinton for political reasons.

    “The president has made it quite clear to Attorney General Loretta Lynch that he, he does not want any prosecution of Hillary Clinton, or any investigation into the Clinton Foundation,” said Bill O’Reilly a week before Election Day. “Mrs. Lynch got the message.”

  • What The Forced Exodus At Fox News Means For Rupert Murdoch

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    “You would have to nuke that place to get rid of the horrible vibes in there.” -- a former Fox News producer

    Prior to being sacked last month, Bill O’Reilly served as the programming tent pole for Fox News, as he had done for the past two decades. Sitting at his 8 p.m. perch, O’Reilly regularly attracted the biggest audience in cable news and set the table for the network, as the shows that followed his each weeknight did their best to hang onto his gargantuan lead-in.

    The unassailable blueprint worked to perfection and represented one key reason why Fox has been able to print money for Rupert Murdoch’s parent company, 21st Century Fox.

    This year, thanks in part to an across-the-board surge in cable news viewing that coincided with Donald Trump’s presidency, O’Reilly had been posting some of the biggest numbers of his career, averaging 4 million viewers each night during the first three months of 2017 and logging 3.6 million on his last show.

    Then on April 18 came O’Reilly's end at Fox after multiple reports of sexual harassment spurred an advertiser boycott. His wasn’t the first big departure -- CEO Roger Ailes was fired last summer after former host Gretchen Carlson filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against him, prompting numerous other current and former employees to come forward and report that he had harassed them (Ailes denied the allegations). But unlike Ailes’ departure, O’Reilly’s impacts the nightly lineup.

    And on Monday night (the most recent for which data are available), Tucker Carlson, who inherited O’Reilly’s suddenly vacant 8 p.m. seat, drew 2.6 million viewers in that hour, a noticeable decline from O’Reilly's usual figures.

    So, yes: The on-camera and off-camera exodus that continues at Fox News does matter.

    Because, of course, it’s not just O’Reilly. Fox, which boasted impressive stability over the years and whose prime-time lineup had remained nearly unchanged for more than a decade, has been stunned by a series of high-profile departures, the likes of which the company has never seen.

    Monday brought the news that Bill Shine, recently promoted to co-president, was out, in part because of reporting that he had helped cover up harassment at the network.

    And the claims and the lawsuits filed by Fox employees continue, with reporter Diana Falzone reporting gender discrimination in a suit filed Monday. On some days, the company looks more like a criminal enterprise than a news organization.

    The wheels started turning on O’Reilly’s ouster last month, when a New York Times investigation revealed that Fox and O’Reilly had spent approximately $13 million to pay off female colleagues who had reported harassment by O’Reilly. After an advertising boycott targeted O’Reilly’s show, the host was dismissed and reportedly given a $25 million payout.

    So, in less than 12 months, numerous key players have been publicly forced out at Fox, while others have walked away from the network. Longtime anchors Megyn Kelly and Greta Van Susteren also both decamped amid the rolling turmoil. Seen as a whole, that represents an unprecedented migration away from Fox News. 

    It’s important to note that post-exodus, there appears to be no attempt to change the content on Fox News itself. Murdoch and his sons, who oversee the channel, seem to be fine with that. They claim they’re trying to clean up the workplace culture, but even that assertion seems dubious.

    And remember, the Murdochs bear responsibility for their problems; last year, they promoted Shine to co-president despite knowing that he had been accused of helping covering up harassment at Fox.

    One Fox veteran suggested that the company’s entrenched dysfunctional culture is beyond fixing, no matter how many executives are let go. “You would have to nuke that place to get rid of the horrible vibes in there,” one former Fox News producer who worked under Shine and Ailes told me this week. “And I'm not even talking about the ill effects of creating the asinine programming day in and day out.”

    Meanwhile, I remain skeptical that Fox’s often-rancid on-screen content can remain the same while the off-camera culture supposedly improves.   

    As Josh Marshall noted at TPM: “That toxic culture is inextricably tied to the product itself: a worldview of resentment and provocation, contempt for changing cultural mores about sex, gender, race and a slew of other things.”

    As for how all the forced personnel changes will affect the channel’s performance, keep in mind, dynasties don’t just happen. (Even unwanted ones like Fox News’.) They don’t just happen in sports, business, or the television news business. Just ask the Today show.

    Or, more specifically, dynasties don’t last forever. And it’s possible that Fox News is facing that reality in a way that it hasn’t since before the Iraq War more than a decade ago. That was the last time Fox wasn’t on top of the cable news ratings mountain.

    I can hear skeptics dismissing the idea that Fox’s future isn’t bright. But I can also still hear skeptics who scoffed at the idea that a fledgling advertising boycott targeting O’Reilly would ever threaten his Fox time slot. 

    I’m certainly not suggesting any type of imminent demise is looming. As a longtime Fox observer, I understand that the channel has developed a fanatically loyal core audience that has shown it’s willing to tune into whatever programming configuration Fox News comes up with. But I also think the drip, drip, drip of on-air changes and off-camera firings and departures could unquestionably alter the dynamics for the long-running ratings winner.

    Note that during the first quarter of this year, MSNBC was the fastest growing cable news network, posting a 61 percent increase in prime-time viewers. That represented a huge audience spike as compared to 2016, which was already a news-drenched election year. And MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow has been posting rating victories over Fox News at 9 p.m.

    So skeptics, take note: The timing of Fox News’ extended implosion is not a good one for Murdoch. 

  • Angelo Carusone Statement On Bill Shine Resigning As Co-President Of Fox News

    Media Matters President: "To Truly Remedy Its Culture Of Harassment, Fox News Also Needs To Change Its Attitude About Women"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Media Matters president Angelo Carusone released the following statement after Fox News co-president Bill Shine, a long-time Roger Ailes ally, resigned from the network. Shine’s departure comes just two weeks after Fox News was forced to fire Bill O’Reilly when advertisers boycotted his show because of reports of serial sexual harassment:

    The departure of Bill Shine proves what women at Fox News, Media Matters and others have been saying from the beginning: that the epidemic of sexual harassment at Fox News was not limited to the actions of a few well-known figures -- and that instead it was indicative of a deeper culture of harassment. That culture was cultivated by Roger Ailes -- and perpetuated and maintained by Fox News executives, like Bill Shine. What took so long?

    I’ll repeat what I said when Fox News fired O’Reilly: Fox News deserves no accolades for this action, only scorn for the industrial scale harassment the network forced its employees to endure.

    The Murdochs and 21st Century Fox had no intention of firing Bill Shine or addressing Fox News’ sexual harassment until forced. Even today Rupert Murdoch refused to criticize Shine, let alone fire him. With O’Reilly, it was advertisers leaving. With Bill Shine, it appears that they didn’t want his apparent malfeasance and their neglect to interfere with their efforts to take over Sky News in the U.K. and Tribune Media in the United States.

    Carusone added,

    Also, this doesn’t fix Fox News’ harassment problem. It’s just the most basic accountability the network could have delivered. All you need to do is watch 30 minutes of Fox News’ programming and you can see that harassment of women goes hand in hand with the right-wing ideology at the network’s core. To truly remedy its culture of harassment, Fox News also needs to change its attitude about women.

    Bill Shine was promoted to co-president after former president and CEO Roger Ailes’ ouster in August 2016 over repeated sexual harassment complaints and lawsuits.

    Shine has been described as Ailes’ “right-hand man,” and according to New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman, Shine “played a role in rallying the women to speak out against Roger Ailes’ accusers and lead this counter-narrative to try to say don't believe Gretchen Carlson.” Shine was also referenced in various lawsuits against the network for his “complicity”.

  • 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.

  • Rupert Murdoch’s Disturbing Corporate Legacy: Chronic Sexual Harassment In US, Rampant Lawbreaking In UK

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Bill O’Reilly may be gone at Fox News, but Rupert Murdoch’s festering Fox News mess isn’t going away anytime soon.

    Murdoch cut ties with the host last week after multiple women's reports of sexual harassment became public. Since then, seven black Fox News employees indicated that they plan to join a racial discrimination suit filed last month by two colleagues, according to New York magazine, and three former Fox employees -- Margaret Hoover, Alisyn Camerota, and Kirsten Powers -- said on CNN that the culture of sexual harassment at Fox News is deeply ingrained. "The culture ... is still there because the executives are still there," said Hoover.

    Then on Monday, former Fox host Andrea Tantaros filed a new lawsuit against the company in federal court, which alleges, “A person working for Fox News was responsible for hacking Ms. Tantaros’s computer so that she could be spied upon.” (Last year, Tantaros sued Fox News for $30 million, claiming sexual harassment.)

    Murdoch, his sons James and Lachlan, and 21st Century Fox -- which they control and which owns Fox News -- are still facing numerous corporate challenges, which might still be raging on July 6.

    That date will mark the one-year anniversary of Gretchen Carlson filing her sexual harassment lawsuit against former Fox News boss Roger Ailes, which triggered numerous other reports of harassment from women working at Fox News. “As a direct and proximate result of Carlson refusing Ailes’ sexual advances, and retaliation for Carlson’s complaints about discrimination and harassment, Ailes terminated her employment, causing her significant economic, emotional and professional harm,” Carlson stated in her filing. (She later reportedly settled the suit for $20 million.)

    It's quite possible that 52 weeks later, Fox News and the Murdoch family will still be mired in the mess.

    Yet I get a sense that the media mogul and his sons are getting something of a pass in the press in the wake of the reports about O'Reilly and Ailes, which followed Murdoch’s ugly wiretapping chapter in the U.K.

    How many strikes do they get?

    As the media grappled with the reports about O'Reilly last week, Murdoch was portrayed as a “pragmatist” and a “savvy political observer.” And driving the Murdoch sons? They're determined to steer “the family ship far into a new century, with new standards of workplace behavior,” according to The New York Times. Additionally, the Times stressed that the sons “seem determined to rid the company of its roguish, old-guard internal culture and tilt operations toward the digital future.”

    Somehow Murdoch, a famously active manager, has been portrayed as a distant player who was oddly not culpable for what has transpired at the highest levels of Fox News.

    And that’s absurd.

    If Murdoch were a “pragmatist” who was actually concerned with cleaning up the rotten culture at Fox News, he would have thoroughly addressed the raging problem last summer when the reports of Ailes harassing female employees were making headlines.

    Instead of addressing the huge problem, Murdoch and his sons consciously chose to paper it over by simply dismissing Ailes, while actually promoting a top Ailes deputy, Bill Shine, even though he’d been accused of helping to cover up claims against both Ailes and O’Reilly. Those don’t sound like executives concerned with ridding the company of an “old-guard internal culture,” as the Times claims.

    Then, months later, Murdoch renewed O’Reilly’s contract despite the fact that O’Reilly and Fox News had settled five harassment suits.

    That’s not the Murdochs being pragmatic. That’s them being wildly cavalier and irresponsible.

    Yet some journalists seem to be viewing the latest issues within Murdoch’s corporate empire through a soda straw and not seeing the entire, unsettling picture. They’re treating last week’s firing of O’Reilly as strictly a Fox News problem, instead of as part of a larger culture of criminality that Murdoch has fostered for years at his media companies.

    Recall that in the 2011 phone-hacking scandal, reporters at Murdoch’s British newspapers illegally tapped into the voicemails of celebrities, politicians, and even a murdered teenager, Milly Dowler.

    As Vanity Fair noted at the time (emphasis added): “The hacking story has confirmed the fears of those who see the hand of Murdoch everywhere: the News of the World was hacking into thousands of people’s private voice mails. The paper was paying off the police.”

    By 2015, it was estimated that the scandal had cost Murdoch’s company more than $500 million, which included “paying out some 377 legal settlements to victims of voicemail interception and a further 341 payouts through a voluntary compensation scheme, which was set up as an alternative to litigation.”

    The hacking was thought to represent Murdoch’s professional low point. But now come the revelations of Fox News’ apparent disregard for workers' rights.

    British regulators are currently deciding whether Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox would qualify as “fit and proper” to purchase satellite TV giant Sky. Attorney Lisa Bloom, who represents several women who say O’Reilly sexually harassed them, recently stressed to British officials, “The similarities between the current harassment scandal and the phone-hacking scandal reveal the company’s approach to business and management – a lack of oversight, intervention, and decency.”

    Note that in recent years, Murdoch employees have been accused of not only hacking into phones, computers, and emails, but also of paying off news sources. And today, Fox News is reportedly under federal investigation for allegedly try to hide the mountainous payments the company has made to women claiming sexual harassment.

    Rupert Murdoch’s not a savvy pragmatist committed to cleaning up the harassment culture at Fox News. He’s been a profound enabler who placed profits above workplace decency. He deserves no gentle treatment from the press.

  • 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.

  • After Fox Fired O'Reilly, Bill Shine Should Be Next

    Shine Continues At The Helm Despite Reports That He Helped Cover Up Sexual Harassment At The Network

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    It took years of sexual harassment reports, millions of dollars in non-disclosure agreements, and a successful advertisers boycott, but Bill O’Reilly was finally fired from Fox News. But his ousting cannot be taken as indicative of a major culture shift within the network as long as current co-president of Fox News Bill Shine continues to be at the helm. As senior executive vice president, Shine reportedly retaliated against women who reported sexual harassment by former-CEO Roger Ailes and helped participate in covering up the reports that eventually led to Ailes’ ouster.

    After Ailes was fired in August 2016, the network swiftly promoted Shine and Fox executive Jack Abernethy as co-presidents. In September, Fox announced that Shine had signed a new multi-year contract with the network, saying the deal guaranteed "stability and leadership to help guide the network for years to come.” Shine, however, has been named in various lawsuits against the network for his “complicity,” and it has previously been reported that Shine played a key role in helping cover up Ailes’ conduct by silencing and “smearing” women who complained.

    According to New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman, Shine aided Ailes in handling Laurie Luhn, a woman who reported Ailes for sexual and psychological harassment, by checking her into hotels in different cities after she suffered a mental breakdown and monitoring her outgoing emails. Former Fox host Andrea Tantaros named Shine as a defendant in her sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit against Fox News and Roger Ailes. According to Tantaros’ lawsuit, she met with Shine to discuss “relief from Ailes’ sexual harassment and [Executive Vice President Irena] Briganti’s retaliatory media vendetta against her," but Shine “told her that Ailes was a ‘very powerful man’ and that she ‘needed to let this one go.’” Fox News contributor Julie Roginsky also named Shine in a lawsuit against Ailes, in which she said Shine was complicit in “Ailes’ harassment and of punishing her for raising the issue.”

    Shine, who has been described as Ailes’ “right-hand man,” has reportedly “pushed women into confidential mediation, signing nondisclosure agreements in exchange for their contracts to be paid,” which is consistent with the recent New York Times reporting about five women who “received payouts from either Mr. O’Reilly or the company in exchange for agreeing to not pursue litigation or speak about their accusations.” The payouts amount to “about $13 million.” According to Sherman, Shine “played a role in rallying the women to speak out against Roger Ailes’ accusers and lead this counter-narrative to try to say don't believe Gretchen Carlson.” NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik corroborated such reporting in a tweet, writing, “Some within Fox News tell me programming/opinion EVP Bill Shine, an Ailes confidant, knew of misconduct & ensuing complaints by women.”

    If Fox wants people to believe that they’re trying to improve the culture at the network, Shine should be the next one to leave.

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

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Image at top created by Sarah Wasko. 

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

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

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

    ORIGINAL POST:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Image by Sarah Wasko.