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MEDIAMATTERS August 23, 2017 ‘Sharon White Chief Executive Ofcom Riverside House 2a Southwark Bridge Road London SE1 9HA Re: Sec. Karen Bradley's request for clarification into Ofcom's assessment of 21* Century Fox's Sky bid Dear Ms. White, In light of Secretary Bradley's request for clarification regarding Ofcom's assessment of 21% Century Fox's (21C Fox) commitment to broadcasting standards, | would like to bring your attention to the latest evidence that proves that 21C Fox and the Murdochs have yet to demonstrate a serious commitment to these standards. The following recent developments demonstrate that: 1. 21€ Fox has a continued pattem of poor corporate governance, despite its claims to have introduced strong compliance and corporate governance systems since the phone hacking and associated scandals in 2012 -- and more recently, in response to Ofcom's recommendations in May 2017. 2. There continues to be an overwhelming pattern of failure by 21C Fox to comply with the broadcasting standards objectives, particularly impartiality, accuracy, and exclusion of offensive and harmful material. information 21” Century Fox has exhibited tacit support for politically motivated 21C Fox and the Murdochs have yet to come forward and publicly address revelations that the ‘Trump administration met with GOP operative and donor Ed Butowsky and then Fox News: contributor Rod Wheeler about a now-debunked report that pushed false claims. * *Public interest test for the proposed acquisition of Sky ple by 21st Century Fox, Inc," Ofcom, 20 June 2017, htips:// pdf about the murder of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich. The goal was to distract from the ongoing investigation into the Trump administration's ties to Russia.? This collusion fits into a long-established pattern of Trump and his surrogates not only peddling fake news as a diversion tactic, but also turning to Fox News for help.’ Media Matters found evidence that after Butowsky gave talking points to Fox News employees about the Rich conspiracy theory, network hosts parroted the messaging on their shows, including on Fox & Friends and Sean Hannity's program, Hannity.‘ The story ran counter to the intelligence ‘community's determination that the emails were hacked and distributed by Russian intelligence services® and also prompted Rich’s family to demand retractions of the network's reporting. Ultimately, Fox News was forced to remove its original story online ~- seven days after it was published.” As noted in my 13 June 2017 letter, even afler the fabricated story was retracted, Hannity continued to hype its core lies, adding to his long record of peddling misinformation and promoting Trump White House messaging uncritically. ‘According to CNN's Oliver Darcy, more than two months after the story was retracted, the network still claimed to be investigating what happened.’ Asked by CNN why no one has been held accountable for this egregious mistake so far, one Fox News employee said, “No one knows. This is like a huge question mark internally. This is a giant mystery.”* The delayed accountability is another window into the Murdochs’ failure to enforce standards swiftly and effectively, 21st Century Fox allows Sean Hannity to use Fox News’ platform to push Ii propaganda, conspiracy theories and bigotry 2 David Folkenflk, “Behind Fox News’ Baseless Seth Rich Story: The Untold Tale," NPR, 1 August 2017, 1Sllawsuit-alleges-fox-news-and-trump-supporter-created-fake-ne ws-story 5 “Trump's remarks defending neo-Nazis were fll of right-wing media talking points,” Media Matters for America, 16 August 2017, hitps:/vwn.mediamatters.orgltesearch/20 17/08) 6ytrump-s-remarks-defending-neo-nazis-were-fullight- wing-media-talking-points/217654 “A GOP operative asked Fox personalities to push a bogus Russia/Seth Rich talking point. Here are four times they did,” Media Matters for America, 1 August 2017, hips: sw. mediamatters.orgiblog/20 17/0810 1/gop-operative-asked-fox-personalities-push-bogus-russias cth-tich-taking-point-here-are-four-times/217474 ® Scott Shane, "What Intelligence Agencies Concluded About the Russian Attack on the U.S. Election,” The New York Times, 6 January 2017, https:hwwaznytimes, com/2017/0'/06/Uspoticsirussian-hack-report html?_r=0 ® Oliver Darcy, "Exclusive: The chaos behind the scenes of Fox News' now-etracted Seth Rich story. CNN Money, 10 August 2017, http:/ O/media/seth-rich-fox-news-timelinelindex.html " Oliver Darcy, "Confusion, anger inside Fox News over lack of answers in network's Seth Rich probe,’ CNN Money, 2 August 2017, http:/ html "i ‘The Murdochs and Fox News have yet to take disciplinary action against Hannity and his promotion of the Rich conspiracy theory, even though Hannity continued to push the story after Fox News retracted it. For months, Hannity has been an unabashed mouthpiece for the Trump administration, including by undermining U.S. intelligence community reports to discredit the ongoing investigations into the Trump campaign's relationship with Russian officials®; running defense for President Trump's response to the white supremacist and neo-Nazi violence that unfolded recently in Charlottesville, VA"; calling for a purge of government employees who don't support Trump"; and openly admitting that his on-air role is to be a pro-Trump cheerleader. * Over the last several months, Hannity has morphed into something more dangerous than a partisan opinion journalist -- he’s been exposed as a full-blown propagandist who spreads fabricated stories to help the White House, all without public condemnation or rebuke from the Murdochs or other Fox executives. 21st Century Fox allows misinformation and propaganda to run rampant on Fox News. Since my 13 June 2017 letter, there have been several prominent instances of Fox News misleading its audience and promoting state-run propaganda that fies in the face of the compliance standards 21C Fox established on 15 May 2017 in accordance with Ofcom's recommendations: © The recent hortfic display of white supremacist hate and violence in Charlottesville gave Fox News an opportunity to offer its viewers sound and accurate coverage about the persistence of racism in the U.S. Instead, the network positioned itself as both a platform for Trump and White House surrogates to skirt responsibility for not directly condemning White supremacists and neo-Nazis and as the host network for avowed racists and anti-Semites — including American musician and right-wing political activist Ted Nugent ~ to praise the “very fine people" who participated in the neo-Nazi rally. It was then unsurprising that when Trump issued his latest statement about the violence, claiming ® Alex Kaplan, "22 ways Sean Hannity has tried to undermine the Russia probes,” Media Matters for ‘America, 4 August 2017, btps:www.mediamatters.orgiblog/2017/08/04/22-ways-Sean-Hannity-has-tried-to-undermine-the-Russia -probesi21751i © Matt Gertz, ‘August 2017, SIhow-sean-hannitys-charlottesville-propaganda-works/2176 35 * "Sean Hannity: Holdover bureaucrats must be ‘arrested, prosecuted, charged and putin jall,” Media Matters for America, 27 July 2017, https:flvwww.mediamatters.orgivideo!2017/07/27/sean-hannity-holdover-bureaucrats-must-be-arrested-pro secuted-charged-and-put jal217421 "= "Hannity: ‘Tam the only one that is as strongly supportive of the president, of anyone else at Fox, Media Matters for America, 3 August 2017,!20 17/08/03¢hannity-i-am-only-one-strongly-supportive-president-anyo ne-else-fox/217515 low Sean Hannity's Charlottesville propaganda works,” Media Matters for America, 15 there was blame to cast “on both sides,” he directly echoed the talking points of Fox News personalities." ‘* Fox News hosts and programs repeatedly praised Trump's statement that North Korea's, latest threats would be met with “fire and fury,” without noting that national security ‘experts had deemed the remarks dangerous and issued stern warnings about the global ramifications of military action with or without nuclear war."* One network contributor in particular claimed that the Bible gives Trump “moral authority to use whatever force necessaty” against North Korea."® ‘* Fox & Friends was forced to clarify on air a flawed report from the weekend edition of the show in which the hosts blamed The New York Times for the U.S. military missing a chance to capture ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Fox & Friends Saturday co-host Pete Hegseth uncritically repeated a claim that a general told a Fox correspondent, saying, "We would have had al-Baghdadi based on the intelligence we had, except someone leaked information to the failing New York Times in 2015 ... and as a result he slipped away.” President Donald Trump subsequently attacked the Times on Twitter following Fox's repor."® Prior to this, in late July, the show came under fire for falsely claiming that a financial disclosure form of then-incoming White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci was leaked to the press, even though the document in question was publicly available.” The hosts also had to walk back and correct a false report that former FBI Director James Comey visited The New York Times when he in fact was simply in the same building to attend a charity event."® +8 “How Trump's talking points on Charlottesville match up with Fox News,” The Washington Post, 16 ‘August 2017, hitps:/ -fox-news/2017/08/16/¢a760486-82b2-11e7-9e7-20fa8d7a0db6_video.himI?utm_term=.7b40376a83be * Nick Femandez and Zachary Pleat, “Fox News and fake news purveyors praise Trump's North Korea threat that experts callesponsible,” Media Matters for America, 9 August 2017,’2017/08/0Sifox-news-and-fake-news-purveyors-praise-Irump-s-no tth-korea-threat-experts-calt-rresponsible/217574 Fox contributor: The Bible gives Trump "moral authority to use whatever force necessary" against North Korea," Media Matters for America, 10 August 2017,!2017/08)O/fox-contributor-bible-gives-trump-moral-authority-use-wh atever-force-necessary-against-north-korea/217581 © Fox & Friends forced to issue a clarification after airing a false smear against the NY Times," Media Matters for America, 24 July 2017, https:lwww!2017/07/24/Fox-~-Friends-forced-to-issue-a-clarification-after-airing-a -false-smear-against-the-NY-Ti/217351 "Fox & Friends in trouble again for a botched repor,” Media Matters for America, 27 July 2017,!2017/07/27/Fox-~-Friends-in-trouble-again-for-a-botched-report2174 09 ** "How Fox News botched a Comey story and then furiously tried to backtrack,” Media Matters for ‘America, 23 June 2017, d-backtrack/217014 ‘As Media Matters and | have noted before, if Rupert Murdoch and 21C Fox were to take full ‘ownership of Sky, they would have the power to reshape Sky in Fox's image, which is exactly ‘what Murdoch wants. We cannot emphasize enough that 21C Fox has yet to demonstrate that it will maintain the highest standards of corporate governance, accountability, and conduct that the British public and the world expect. Sincerely, a Angelo Carusone President, Media Matters for America ‘About Media Matters for America “Meala Mattors for America is a web-based, not-for-profit, 601(¢)(3) progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media, ‘Launched in May 2004, Media Matters for America put in place, fr the fist ime, the means to systematically monitor ‘a cxoss section of print, broadeast, cable, radio, and Internet media outlets for conservative misinformation - news oF ‘commentary that isnot accurate, reliable, or credible and that forwards the conservative agenda - every day, in real time Using the wabsite as tha principal vehicle for disseminating research and information, Media ‘Matters posts rapi-tesponse items as well as longer research and analytic reports documenting conservative mmisinformation throughout the media. Additionally, MediaMlaters works dally to not activists, journalists, pundits, and the general pubic about instances of misinformation, providing them with the resources to rebut false claims and to take direct action against offending media instiutions.