Rupert Murdoch | Media Matters for America

Rupert Murdoch

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  • Fox Corp. board member Paul Ryan has been the subject of fawning praise from Fox News

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Fox Corp., the parent company of Fox News, announced on March 19 that former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) will serve on its board of directors. Ryan had been the recipient of fawning praise from Fox News personalities in the past for his right-wing budget proposals and his selection by Mitt Romney as his vice presidential pick for the 2012 presidential election.

  • Misinformer of the Year: 21st Century Fox Executive Chairman Lachlan Murdoch

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Media Matters’ 2018 Misinformer of the Year is 21st Century Fox Executive Chairman Lachlan Murdoch. Our annual designation is given to the media figure, news outlet, or organization that stands out for promoting conservative lies and smears in the U.S. media. Murdoch was selected for his role in overseeing Fox News, the right-wing network founded by his father Rupert, who previously received the title. Several of the network’s current and former commentators have previously been named Misinformer of the Year.

    The Murdochs’ Fox News, a uniquely destructive force in American public life that ushered in an era of post-truth politics, has been unleashed under President Donald Trump. The network now functions as a propaganda outlet for his administration, embracing any level of extremism, deceit, and bigotry necessary to promote the president’s message while scorning basic principles of journalistic ethics.

    Lachlan Murdoch has consistently lied about what his network does and what it is, even as the people who work for him have breached the norms of their profession in increasingly flagrant ways and become ever more entangled with the Trump administration.

    This is how Murdoch describes the network he is inheriting from his father: “a ratings juggernaut with millions of households trusting us to deliver the most valuable and most-watched journalism on television. Fox News offers the best news and the clearest opinion, a legacy we are proud of.” He sneers that “our biggest critics of Fox News are not watching Fox News” and compares the network to The New York Times, which he says similarly has “a direction and an opinion that speaks to their readers.” Asked about the argument that his network is fomenting domestic terrorism, he denounces “intolerance of opinions.” Questioned about Trump’s unabashed love for his network, he claims the president merely “dislikes us less than everyone else.” Grilled about his prime-time hosts’ viciously intolerant attitudes, he turns the argument back on his critics, saying, “In this country, we all have to be more tolerant of each other’s views.”

    As standards at Fox News degrade and some of its most prominent employees venture further into the fever swamps, Murdoch and his fellow executives use those network staffers who do respect normal journalistic conventions as a fig leaf to defuse concerns about the network’s most destructive and unethical programming -- even as those staffers publicly and privately sound the alarm.

    But Murdoch’s defenses are increasingly falling on deaf ears. By Fox’s own admission, a flood of blue-chip advertisers have fled the network’s airwaves this year, wary of associating their brands with its vile programming and volatile on-air talent. Their ranks will only grow unless the network actually changes course. But Lachlan Murdoch’s network is on a different path.

    The Fox-White House merger

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Fox has long served as the communications arm of the Republican Party. But over the last few years, it’s become difficult to tell where Fox ends and the Trump administration begins. The network is not only the president’s propaganda machine but also inextricably entwined with his decision-making and operations.

    Sean Hannity is the embodiment of his network’s dual role. He hosts an industry-leading prime-time Fox show -- a heady mix of paeans to Trump’s glorious achievements and dire warnings about a vast, shadowy anti-Trump conspiracy -- while simultaneously serving as one of the president’s closest informal advisers and even joining the president on stage at a rally the night before the midterm elections. Other network hosts play a similar double game, stopping by the Oval Office or phoning into the West Wing by day, then serving as presidential propagandists on Fox by night.

    Meanwhile, Trump has stocked his administration with familiar faces he’s seen on TV. Fox alums currently serve in senior White House roles, lead cabinet agencies and represent the U.S. as ambassadors. And that door opens both ways: White House communications director Hope Hicks was replaced by former Fox News co-president Bill Shine (who is still drawing millions in severance from the network), then Murdoch picked her to run public relations for the network’s parent company.

    Trump also regularly soaks up the network’s programming and tweets about it, sometimes for hours a day, creating a durable feedback loop in which commentators use Fox appearances to try to influence his decisions on political strategy, policy, legal tactics, pardons, and personnel. This phenomenon is most apparent -- and perhaps most dangerous -- as Fox personalities encourage the president to follow through on an authoritarian solution to the Russia probe.

    A voice for white nationalists

    When the network’s most prominent hosts aren’t generating fawning coverage of Trump’s performance or pushing conspiracy theories targeting his foes, they are channeling white nationalist talking points to inflame the president’s base.

    Network founder Roger Ailes had a longtime strategy of generating a fervent, almost entirely white audience by relentlessly stoking racial tensions. And Fox is building on that approach, blasting out to an audience of millions its hosts’ paranoid fears about the cultural displacement of white Americans and the ongoing threat to the national culture purportedly posed by immigration and diversity.

    Tucker Carlson’s show is a constant stream of polemics and storylines about diversity and demographic change that draws plaudits from white supremacists and neo-Nazis for mainstreaming their own talking points. He's been bleeding advertisers over the last week after claiming that immigration makes the United States “poorer and dirtier and more divided.”

    Laura Ingraham’s program is a racist cesspool. Her ugly rants minimizing child detention centers and condemning the “massive demographic changes” caused by immigration made headlines and devastated the program’s advertiser base.

    This pattern of deliberately arousing fear about immigration reached a new peak with Fox’s obsessive coverage of a caravan of Central American migrants that approached the U.S.-Mexico border in the weeks before the midterm elections. The network whipped up hysteria by branding the would-be asylum seekers “invaders” and promoting conspiracy theories that the group had been infiltrated by terrorists and was supported by the Jewish philanthropist George Soros. Thanks to the Trump-Fox feedback loop, its coverage echoed through the rest of the media.

    This frenzy may have had dire consequences. Its height coincided with both a mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue by a virulent anti-Semite obsessed with the “invaders” and angered by Jewish support for refugees and a series of attempted bombings of progressive leaders, allegedly by a man with a Facebook page full of “clips from Fox News broadcasts.”

    The end of the standards charade

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Fox executives were never terribly concerned with the basic strictures of journalistic ethics. But the last year has made clear that the network has no standards whatsoever, especially for the big stars with ties to Trump. And the gap between Murdoch’s stated purpose and how he actually oversees and disciplines the commentators under his purview is particularly glaring here.

    Hannity has crossed lines twice this year that would lead to termination at any real news outlet -- first when he failed to disclose, while reporting on a federal raid of Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s home and office, that he had been a client of Cohen’s, and second when he campaigned on stage with Trump at a rally after saying that he was just there for an interview. Notably, while Fox subsequently clucked its disapproval, in neither case did the network apologize, announce penalties for Hannity, or promise that it wouldn’t happen again.

    This flagrant disregard for minimal ethical standards has trickled down through the Fox lineup. It isn’t normal for journalists to let the president use their interviews as kick-offs for his rallies or advise him in the White House or call in to his staff’s meetings or golf with him or operate lucrative side gigs as paid speakers for party fundraising events or give a cabinet member’s staff script approval for an interview.

    But these are things that have happened -- and will continue to happen -- at Fox, because Lachlan Murdoch and his team appear not to care about this behavior or to be too afraid of their biggest stars and their audience to stop it. Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott’s reported effort to crack “down on inflammatory statements” has been ineffective as anything other than savvy public relations. There are no serious consequences for the network’s stars as long as the access and money keep rolling in.

    Lachlan Murdoch is responsible for Fox’s excesses

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Given Fox News’ ugly history, it might be easy to write off the network’s current incarnation as the pernicious legacy of its previous leadership. That would be a mistake. Fox News’ transformation into an unchained pro-Trump propaganda outlet that promotes white nationalism came as Lachlan Murdoch’s control over the network steadily increased.

    Long seen as the heir to his father’s media empire, Lachlan Murdoch struck out on his own in 2005 after feuding with Fox News co-founder Roger Ailes. But he returned to Rupert’s side as chairman of Fox’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, nine years later and was promoted to executive co-chairman in 2015. Lachlan was reportedly instrumental in removing Ailes after news of his long history of sexual harassment broke in 2016, a move that eliminated an alternate center of power in the company’s hierarchy. And after the company moved to sell the bulk of its entertainment holdings, in May he was named chairman and chief executive of Fox, the company that will hold the family’s remaining television assets.

    After removing Ailes and cementing his role as his father’s successor, Lachlan Murdoch is ultimately accountable for Fox’s programming. If he wanted the network to operate as a responsible media outlet, he could make that happen. Instead, he suggests that any attempt to rein in his network’s stars would constitute unacceptable censorship of their opinions. Whether the media scion, who is reportedly seen as more conservative than his father, is encouraging the network to shift in its direction or simply standing idly by as it moves, he is happy to profit from the forces he continues to unleash.

    Lachlan Murdoch is gaslighting America about the damage Fox News is doing to the country. For these reasons, he is the Misinformer of the Year.

  • Report: Women at Fox News are "stunned" and "disgusted" after Rupert Murdoch's dismissal of sexual misconduct at the network

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    According to a HuffPost report, “current and former female Fox News employees” were left “stunned, disgusted and ‘hungry for justice’” after Fox News executive chairman Rupert Murdoch’s comments downplaying the sexual harassment culture at Fox as “all nonsense.”

    Murdoch said during a December 14 interview with Sky, that the reported complaints about rampant sexual harassment at Fox News were “all nonsense” and reflected only “isolated incidents.”

    According to HuffPost many of the women who said they faced harassment at Fox were outraged by the comments. Ten women, both current and former employees, explained that Murdoch’s comments, “not only diminished the scandal that has plagued the network for over 17 months, it also virtually erased a flood of reports, terminations, forced resignations and settlements.”

    From HuffPost:

    Current and former female Fox News employees say they are stunned, disgusted and “hungry for justice” after media mogul Rupert Murdoch on Thursday dismissed allegations of sexual misconduct at the network as “nonsense” outside of a few “isolated incidents” with former Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes.


    For this story, HuffPost spoke with 10 current and former female Fox News staffers, all of whom are or were on-air talent and say they have faced harassment or assault by current and former Fox News executives and on-air talent. They said the comment by Murdoch, who controls the Fox News Channel along with his two sons Lachlan and James through 21st Century Fox, not only diminished the scandal that has plagued the network for over 17 months, it also virtually erased a flood of allegations, terminations, forced resignations and settlements.


    “I have had to put up with a hostile work environment for years, and now I’m told that it doesn’t exist by a man who doesn’t have to walk these halls every day? I’m hungry for justice,” said one woman who is part of the network’s on-air talent.

    “Hey Rupert - stop with the lies or we’ll go public with the truth. All of it. Including about the talent and executives you still employ who have harassed us and don’t give a damn about workplace respect - only money,” said a woman who was previously a prominent member of Fox News’ on-air talent. “How much will it take before you actually start caring about your female employees? Is your 52 billion enough? Are we really going to clean house now?”

    Murdoch’s comment directly contradicts the public relations strategy of Fox News and 21st Century Fox, which has been to diligently tell reporters the era of Ailes, who died this year, and host Bill O’Reilly is over. Instead, the press reps say, Fox News has ushered in a new era of corporate responsibility and a workplace free of hostility and retaliation.


    “I’m contacting a lawyer tomorrow,” said one Fox News host. “I’m sick of this shit."

    Murdoch’s claim that harassment was limited to former Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes is demonstrably false, with allegations and settlements against Bill O’Reilly, Eric Bolling, Geraldo Rivera, and others coming to light since Ailes’ departure.

  • Rupert Murdoch's Trump support pays off

    Disney deal, FCC action will make the conservative mogul an even more potent force in U.S. media

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Rupert Murdoch, the 86-year-old conservative mogul who heads Fox News and The Wall Street Journal, is attempting to reshape his sprawling media empire in a way that could vastly expand his role in U.S. political life.

    Murdoch’s greatest asset in that endeavor is President Donald Trump, whom Murdoch has cultivated by serving as his informal adviser and giving him fawning coverage through his news outlets. That effort now appears to be bearing fruit.

    Yesterday, the White House publicly signed off on a deal that would allow Murdoch to refocus his holdings on news programming, while Trump’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) took a step that would allow Murdoch to dramatically expand those holdings.

    Together, those steps could lead to a future where Fox’s pro-Trump commentary is piped into local broadcast news stations across the country.

    Over the last 65 years, Murdoch turned a newspaper he inherited from his father into a news and entertainment goliath on four continents, with his News Corp and 21st Century Fox companies controlling substantial holdings in newspapers, publishing, and television and film production and distribution.

    But Murdoch’s efforts at expansion have been stymied in recent years, while rival media companies consolidated and new threats arose from technology companies. Most recently, British regulators wary of Fox’s news practices stalled Murdoch’s bid to purchase the European broadcaster Sky PLC due to pressure from media experts and advocates, including Media Matters and Avaaz, placing in jeopardy a deal he has sought for years.

    With his buying options restricted, Murdoch chose to sell instead. On Wednesday morning, The Walt Disney Co. announced a $52.4 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox assets, including its prized movie studio and television production arm, regional sports networks, cable channels FX and National Geographic, and its stakes in Hulu and Sky, among others. The move is a shocking retreat from the entertainment world, where Murdoch has been a major player for decades.

    But Murdoch would retain the news companies that have helped make him a fixture in U.S. politics -- Fox Broadcasting network, its local broadcast televisions stations, Fox News, and Fox Business -- which, along with Fox Sports, will be spun off into a new company.

    “The new Fox will draw upon the powerful live news and sports businesses of Fox, as well as the strength of our Broadcast network,” Murdoch said in a statement. He will also come away with a sizable cash hoard and what he’s said is a $2 billion annual cash flow, which will allow for dramatic expansion of that company, if the deal goes through.

    Analysts say the corporate megamerger is similar to AT&T’s proposed acquisition of CNN corporate parent Time Warner, which Trump savaged on the campaign trail and the Justice Department has sued to block.

    But Trump loves Fox News’ often sycophantic coverage of his administration and hates CNN’s more critical reporting, and so his view of this deal seems very different. Trump reportedly called Murdoch for assurance that he wasn’t planning to sell Fox, and yesterday White House press secretary Sarah Sanders publicly lauded the deal.

    These shockingly inappropriate moves suggest that the administration may apply different standards to proposed mergers based on whether the president approves of the companies involved.

    There’s good reason for the White House to be pleased: Murdoch now appears focused on growing the conservative news apparatus that helped make Trump president.

    Reports suggest that he plans to purchase more local television stations and use Fox News to provide them with programming. This will require additional help that the Trump administration seems eager to provide.

    Murdoch currently owns 28 television stations in 17 markets, including several of the nation’s largest, but was constrained from further purchases by the FCC regulations intended to preserve competition in media ownership. Murdoch has raged against the commission’s limitations for decades.

    But Trump’s pick for FCC chair, Ajit Pai, has moved quickly to strip away the regulations holding moguls like Murdoch in check. In party-line votes this year, the Republican commissioners have eliminated several restrictions preventing further media consolidation.

    And yesterday, the FCC voted to review the cap that currently prevents a single company from reaching more than 39 percent of U.S. television households.

    If the cap is raised or eliminated altogether, Murdoch would be able to snap up television broadcast stations -- perhaps by purchasing ownership chains like Gannett or Hearst -- and drastically expand his reach.

    But what will those new stations air? Fox’s stations currently benefit from programming provided by its scripted television production arm, 20th Century Fox TV. With that company sold to Disney, Fox stations will need to find a new, cheaper source of programming.

    One way to do that, analysts suggest, will be to take advantage of Murdoch’s news companies, beaming Fox News content onto the broadcast airwaves.

    “They obviously have a strong news product which they haven’t really cross pollinated with their broadcast network that much,” Katz Media Group’s Stacey Schulman told Variety. “In light of that and the fact that they’re losing a big content library and production arm, you might see more news production coming from the Fox News side showing up on the network.”

    Increasing the scale of the broadcast network company would have financial benefits for Murdoch. But buying more stations in crucial swing states would also give him more political power, allowing him, in turn, to continue to pay back the Trump administration for its deregulatory zeal.

    Murdoch’s stations already use Fox News' personalities to push its conservative viewpoint to some extent. The company’s reshaping -- and potential expansion -- will dramatically drive up the demand for that content.

    Fox’s model could come to resemble that of Sinclair Broadcast Group, the conservative network of stations owned by the conservative mogul David Smith and his family, with must-run news packages pushing right-wing views produced by a central news programming office and sent out to stations across the country.

    Murdoch has feuded with Smith for decades, and Sinclair, already the nation’s largest local news provider, has also sought to dramatically expand its station holdings amid Pai's deregulatory frenzy

    The next few years could see a battle for dominance between two right-wing billionaires who use their news apparatuses to promote their conservative politics, overlapping with a presidential re-election campaign featuring the man who made their expansions possible.

  • Rupert Murdoch says Fox News harassment stopped with Roger Ailes. He couldn't be more wrong. 

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Fox News executive chairman Rupert Murdoch reportedly said in a Sky interview that the network’s ongoing culture of sexual harassment was actually “all nonsense” and consisted simply of “isolated incidents.” Murdoch further asserted that the harassment at Fox was only perpetrated by former chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, and “there’s been nothing else since then.”

    Ailes was first publicly named for serial harassment in July 2016 when former Fox host Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit detailing how Ailes and Steve Doocy -- the current co-host of Fox & Friends -- made “sexually-charged comments” and were “sexist and condescending” toward her, respectively. The lawsuit also said Ailes made “demands for sex as a way to improve her job standing.” At least 25 women have come forward with stories of Ailes’ misconduct and harassment. Ailes resigned 2 weeks later. Ailes’ pattern of behavior, spanning at least a decade, seems far worse than a series of “isolated incidents.”

    What’s more, since Ailes’ departure on July 21, 2016:

    • The New York Times reported that (now former) Fox News host Bill O’Reilly and/or Fox News parent company 21st Century Fox had made at least six settlements for sexual misconduct -- including one for an astounding $32 million.
    • Fox suspended and conducted an internal investigation into Fox Business host Charles Payne after frequent Fox guest Scottie Nell Hughes reported that Payne had coerced her into a years-long relationship “under threat of reprisals." Payne was later cleared by the internal investigation, but is now named in a lawsuit from Hughes alleging rape and retaliation by Payne.
    • Fox News suspended, then “part[ed] ways amicably” with co-host Eric Bolling amid an investigation into claims he sent “unsolicited photos of male genitalia to current and former female colleagues at the network.”
    • Newsweek wrote about public reports of misconduct by Fox News co-host Juan Williams when he worked at The Washington Post. Fox News hired him years after the harassment claims were public.
    • A video of Bette Midler’s interview with Barbara Walters in 1991 resurfaced in which Midler described Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera assaulting her. Midler shared the video herself, and reiterated her story, also saying Rivera never apologized. The video’s resurfacing coincided with Rivera publicly defending reported harassment and assault by former NBC host Matt Lauer. The following day, Fox News said it was “troubled” by Rivera’s comments and Rivera later tweeted apologies about his statements, as well as a (sort-of) apology to Midler.

    So it sure seems like there’s been some other things since Ailes left!

    This isn’t the first time lately Fox has tried to congratulate itself on handling sexual harassment complaints lately. It’s just the most bizarre.

  •, which is walking back its decision to not sponsor Sean Hannity, is run by the Murdochs

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Companies are distancing themselves from Sean Hannity’s Fox News program in response to his ongoing public support for reported child predator and Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore.

    On November 9, The Washington Post published an extensive investigative report, compiled with more than 30 sources, with accounts from four women who said Moore had engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior toward them when they were teenagers. One woman, Leigh Corfman, was just 14 years old when 32-year-old Moore sexually assaulted her, she said. In the days following the Post’s report, Hannity used his radio and television platforms to offer several inexplicable defenses of Moore, insinuating repeatedly that the women are lying and hosting others who did the same. He even hosted Moore on his radio show the day after the Post report came out.

    In recent days, several companies have announced they were either removing ads from Sean Hannity’s Fox News program or that they would not advertise on his show in the future. In August, Media Matters called on Hannity’s advertisers to stop financially supporting his lies and extremism and warned that Hannity’s volatility made him a business risk.

    Among those companies was, a real estate search engine site. As Hannity began encouraging a counter effort against companies that said they would no longer advertise on his show, deleted its Twitter announcement and published a statement saying the company would "continue to place ads across a broad range of networks, including Fox News and its top shows." is “operated by News Corp subsidiary Move, Inc.” under a license from the National Association of Realtors. In other words, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. which manages the operations of, has decided to continue advertising on a program airing on Fox News, part of Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox.

    In an article published just last month, Murdoch backed his decision to acquire Move Inc. and emphasized the advertising potential: “We live in an age when more people than ever are going to portals like when they’re serious about property. There’s a lot of advertising to be had.”

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

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

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

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

    Today’s submission highlighted the following concerns and recommendations:

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

    Media Matters has actively opposed 21st Century Fox’s proposed takeover of Sky PLC since it was first announced. On March 30, Media Matters submitted, in partnership with global activism group Avaaz, a report to Ofcom that detailed the risks the Murdochs' desired takeover of Sky pose to British broadcasting standards. Media Matters and Avaaz had previously submitted a report to Karen Bradley, U.K.’s secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, demonstrating that the risk of “Foxification” of Britain’s public debate is too great for Bradley to simply rubber-stamp a Murdoch takeover of Sky.

    Rupert Murdoch abandoned a previous bid for full ownership of the company in light of an investigation into a mass phone hacking scandal at his U.K.-based newspapers. Following an investigation, a parliamentary report found that Murdoch was “not a fit person” to run a major corporation and that his son James had showed “wilful ignorance” of the industrial-scale hacking.

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

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

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    A CNN report discussed Media Matters President Angelo Carusone’s recent testimony to the U.K.’s chief competitions watchdog, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), against 21st Century Fox’s bid to take over satellite broadcasting company Sky plc, which oversees Sky News. The CMA invited Carusone along with Media Matters’ U.K. partners to testify last week as part of its investigation into 21st Century Fox’s bid, citing Media Matters as “a relevant third party.” On October 24, Media Matters had submitted a report to the CMA illustrating the havoc 21st Century Fox would wreak on the British media landscape if its bid is approved.

    At the October 27 hearing, Carusone testified alongside media experts and advocates from Avaaz, Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom, the Media Reform Coalition, Hacked Off, and 38 Degrees. As CNN reported, Carusone detailed the widespread culture of pushing politically and financially-motivated misinformation and intimidating critics at Fox News and other Murdoch-owned outlets:

    Carusone told CNN that he hammered 21st Century Fox on several fronts during the hearing. He cited examples of Fox News publishing inaccurate information as a problem. He also said he told the regulators it's troubling that Fox has commentators who have a direct interest in the matter they speak about, but do not acknowledge the conflict of interest, and said he brought up what he says are Fox's blurred lines between what is news and what is commentary on air.

    Carusone said he also testified about issues of corporate governance at Fox and 21st Century Fox, and brought up an instance in which he said Fox News tried to obtain the phone records of one of their staffers who was reporting on the network. The incident, Carusone said, is reminiscent of another Murdoch company's phone hacking scandal in which News of the World staffers were accused of hacking the phones of celebrities, including those in the Royal Family. Fox News has denied it sought the phone records of the Media Matters staffer.

    "[The company] can be influential in terms of going after and attacking and they also can be retaliatory," Carusone said.

    Media Matters has actively opposed 21st Century Fox’s proposed takeover of Sky plc since it was first announced. On March 30, Media Matters submitted, in partnership with Avaaz, a report to Ofcom that detailed the risks the Murdochs' desired takeover of Sky poses to British broadcasting standards. Media Matters and Avaaz had previously submitted a report to Karen Bradley, U.K.’s secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, demonstrating that the risk of “Foxification” of Britain’s public debate is too great for Bradley to simply rubber-stamp a Murdoch takeover of Sky.

    Rupert Murdoch abandoned a previous bid for full ownership of the company in light of an investigation into a mass phone hacking scandal at his U.K.-based newspapers. Following an investigation, a parliamentary report found that Murdoch was “not a fit person” to run a major corporation and that his son James had showed “wilful ignorance” of the industrial-scale hacking. 

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

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • 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 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.