Rupert Murdoch's bid to purchase Sky News may come undone because of Fox News' appalling reporting on the death of Seth Rich.
NPR's David Folkenflik reported on Tuesday that the United Kingdom's culture minister advised a government regulator to review the acquisition amid outrage over Fox News' coverage of Seth Rich's murder. Members of Britain's Parliament have cited the Rich story as cause for a full review of the media buy. Former Labour leader Ed Miliband called Fox News' reporting a “brazen disregard for the ethics of journalism” and said the company's compliance procedures “failed dismally,” the Guardian reported.
The Office of Communications, commonly referred to as Ofcom, is the government regulatory agency that has the authority to approve the purchase in the United Kingdom.
Fox News contributor Rod Wheeler, who worked on the Seth Rich story and became a whistleblower against the network after he alleged that Fox News attributed untrue quotes from him, has hired an attorney who is pressuring Ofcom to question Fox executives about its false reporting. In a letter to Sharon White, the chief executive of Ofcom, Wigdor wrote that Wheeler’s allegations “raise serious concerns about the willingness of Mr. Murdoch’s media machine to invest resources into furthering a political agenda in line with the family’s own views.”
“Further questioning of Fox executives is necessary to assess whether the company was transparent during meetings with Ofcom," the letter added. "While Ofcom has no duty to assess the veracity of complaints filed in the US, the facts here involve recent conduct by the company and contradict the company’s representations that since July 2016 it has adopted new measures to maintain adequate internal governance."
The fact that Fox News' Rich coverage might be the dagger that brings down the Sky News purchase is probably déjà vu for Murdoch, since Murdoch had to shut down the biggest paper in the U.K. in 2008 following outcry over its reporting on the death of a British girl. Milly Dowler went missing in the U.K. in 2002 and was found dead six months later. Her family later learned that Murdoch's paper, News of the World, had illegally hacked Milly's cell phone.
Like the Dowler family, the Rich family says that Fox News' reporting on their son's death has only brought pain and misery back to their household. Fox News host Sean Hannity, who perpetually complains about the "fake news" liberal media, trumpeted the Rich conspiracy theory on his show for months.
Rich's parents told NPR that the actions of Fox News "were almost as bad for us as when we first learned of Seth's death."
Hannity may now be responsible for the downfall of conservative media's expansion in the U.K.