After 15 years on British tellies, Fox News has gome off the air in the U.K. as of 4:00pm Greenwich Mean Time. The decision was ostensibly based on the conservative news network’s slipping U.K. ratings, for a spokesperson for 21st Century Fox explained that, with only 2,000 viewers a day tuning in, it simply didn’t make sense to keep Fox on the air. And there’s the matter of the Murdoch’s ongoing pursuit of purchasing Sky to consider.
However, the network’s controversial reputation on both sides of the pond could be a contributing factor. Not only did Fox News recently retract a fake conspiracy (pushed by Sean Hannity) about murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich, there’s an ongoing scandal involving sexual harassment allegations that has spawned into a wide-ranging mess, even after the departure of former boss Roger Ailes and host Bill O’Reilly.
All of those woes reflect on the Murdochs’ leadership and are of great interest in the decision about whether or not 21st Century Fox can be trusted to have a large stake in British news culture. Fox’s run-ins with Ofcom, the British communications regulator, haven’t helped the Murdochs in their negotiations for Sky, either. Fox ran afoul of broadcast regulations 22 times in 2016, including some crucial slip-ups just before the Brexit vote. It’s the opinion of Labour Leader Tom Watson that “21st Century Fox clearly thought it was easier to pull it from the UK altogether than to clean up its act.”
Ed Miliband, who used to hold Watson’s position in the Labour party, put the Murdochs’ dilemma in even starker terms:
“This decision shows the Murdochs panicking about their bid for Sky. It amounts to an admission that despite having broadcast here year after year, Fox News is not fit for UK broadcasting in the standards and ethics of its journalism. It’s yet more proof that the Murdochs can’t be trusted to own 100% of Sky.
“Stopping broadcasting in the UK changes nothing. Fox News in the US is the Murdochs’ channel, they are responsible for its broadcasting standards and the appalling racial and sexual harassment that happened on their watch. The Murdochs can’t run from their record at Fox News.”
That’s a stinging assessment, and the Murdochs will no doubt be eagerly waiting to find out if Ofcom and Sky executives agree. One person who’s unlikely to heed Fox’s British detractors? President Trump, who favors the conservative network.
(Via The Guardian)