Fox draws Bri­tish scru­tiny

Er­ro­neous re­port on DNC staffer ap­pears to be un­der re­view.

Los Angeles Times - - COMPANY TOWN - By Meg James meg.james@la­times.com

Bri­tain’s me­dia reg­u­la­tors ap­pear to be re­view­ing Fox News’ han­dling of an er­ro­neous story that claimed slain Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee staffer Seth Rich was the source of dam­ag­ing leaks dur­ing last year’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign — not Rus­sia.

Bri­tain’s sec­re­tary of state for cul­ture and me­dia, Karen Bradley, on Tues­day asked Bri­tain’s me­dia watch­dog — the Of­fice of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions — to clar­ify por­tions of its as­sess­ment that 21st Cen­tury Fox, and the Ru­pert Mur­doch fam­ily, which con­trols the me­dia com­pany, were “fit and proper” broad­cast­ers.

Bri­tish of­fi­cials have been mulling over whether to ap­prove the Mur­dochs’ $14-bil­lion bid to take full con­trol of Europe’s largest pay-TV com­pany, Sky. The satel­lite TV ser­vice, which in­cludes the Sky News unit, has 22 mil­lion cus­tomers in Bri­tain, Ire­land, Ger­many, Aus­tria and Italy.

Bradley’s query comes less than a week af­ter an ex­plo­sive law­suit was filed against Fox and Fox News in New York by a for­mer Wash­ing­ton de­tec­tive, Rod Wheeler. Wheeler was a long­time paid con­trib­u­tor to Fox News. He al­leged that quotes at­trib­uted to him in the Fox News ar­ti­cle, which ran on­line for about a week in May, were fab­ri­ca­tions.

Bradley, in a state­ment, did not men­tion the dis­cred­ited Fox News story — or the law­suit al­leg­ing that Pres­i­dent Trump’s White House par­tic­i­pated in the craft­ing of the story. Fox News has since re­tracted the story, say­ing it failed to live up to the net­work’s stan­dards.

In­stead, Bradley asked Bri­tain’s Of­fice of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, known as Of­com, to pro­vide clar­i­fi­ca­tions on “a num­ber of points” that have arisen re­cently. Bradley noted her of­fice had re­viewed a “large num­ber” of al­le­ga­tions that have been lodged in re­la­tion to Fox.

“A num­ber of these [al­le­ga­tions] raise new ev­i­dence and/or com­ment on the Of­com as­sess­ment,” Bradley wrote. She asked Of­com to re­port back by Aug. 25.

Wheeler’s suit con­tends that a wealthy backer of Trump, Ed Bu­towsky, con­spired with a Fox News cor­re­spon­dent and the White House to make up a story to de­flect at­ten­tion from the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Rich was a 27-year-old aide at the DNC who was shot to death last sum­mer.

Wheeler’s at­tor­ney, Douglas Wig­dor, separately sent a 110-page let­ter to Of­com Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Sharon White last week. Wig­dor wrote that Wheeler’s law­suit “shed new light on whether 21st Cen­tury Fox ex­ec­u­tives were forth­com­ing and trans­par­ent with Of­com dur­ing its in­ves­ti­ga­tion, as well as the ques­tion whether 21st Cen­tury Fox is ca­pa­ble of ac­cu­rately and truth­fully de­liv­er­ing news to the pub­lic.”

A Fox spokesman de­clined to com­ment Tues­day. Fox owns 39% of Sky, and wants to buy the shares it does not own.

“There is no way that the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment can make a de­ci­sion to ap­prove this $14-bil­lion takeover of Europe’s largest pay-TV op­er­a­tor with­out as­sess­ing the se­ri­ously dam­ag­ing al­le­ga­tions that Fox News col­luded with the White House in a mas­sive coverup,” said Will Davies, a cam­paign of­fi­cial with the ac­tivist group Avaaz, which op­poses Fox’s bid for Sky.

Daniel Leal-oli­vas AFP/Getty Im­ages

KAREN BRADLEY, Bri­tain’s sec­re­tary of state for cul­ture and me­dia, has asked Bri­tain’s me­dia watch­dog to clar­ify its as­sess­ment that 21st Cen­tury Fox and the Mur­doch fam­ily, which seek to buy Sky, were “fit and proper” broad­cast­ers.

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