Ofcom rules Fox News to be in breach of impartiality rules

Fox News has broken impartiality rules on two counts with its programmes Hannity and Tucker Carlson Tonight, British media watchdog Ofcom has ruled.

The two broadcasts included discussion about Donald Trump’s travel ban and the response by the UK Government following the Manchester bombing, both of which have been deemed to have not included impartial analysis.

The ruling has come two months after the US news channel ceased to air in the UK and less than a week after its licence was formally surrendered to Ofcom.

Sean Hannity (Andy Kropa/Invision/AP)

However, the media regulator has continued to investigate the channel over complaints made about each programme.

Current affairs programme Hannity, fronted by political commentator Sean Hannity, has been ruled to have been in breach of due impartiality during a segment focusing on the presidential executive order, which banned entry to the United States from seven predominately Muslim nations.

The January 31 episode also included discussion on President Donald Trump’s list for Supreme Court candidates.

Ofcom has said it considered the order to be a “major” matter despite it being a domestic US policy, considering its impact on global citizens and those living in the UK who may have been affected by the travel ban.

An Ofcom spokesman said: “We found this programme breached our rules on due impartiality.

“The programme didn’t include a sufficiently wide range of views and any alternative opinions put forward during the discussion were dismissed by the presenter.”

The media watchdog said there was a lack of impartial views and that presenter Mr Hannity voiced his enthusiastic support for the order and the Trump administration throughout.

Ofcom acknowledged the expectation of viewers in the UK to a broadcast that is generally more supportive of the US Republican Party, but that it still did not significantly balance the number of critical statements from those who opposed the order.

Ofcom received one complaint regarding Hannity, which is enough to open an investigation.

Tucker Carlson Tonight, an opinion and commentary show, has also been found to be in breach of impartiality rules over a broadcast in which the reaction of the UK Government and the UK authorities to the Manchester terror attack was brought into question.

US President Donald Trump (Andrew Harnik/AP/PA)

A suicide bomber killed 22 people when he detonated a bomb at the Manchester Arena following US pop star Ariana Grande’s concert on May 22.

Carlson’s programme, which aired on May 25, aired critical statements about Theresa May and the topic of terrorism in the UK.

Ofcom has cited the lack of reflection of views from the UK Government or any of the authorities of people criticised in the broadcast as reasons for the impartiality breach.

“We found that this programme also breached our rules on due impartiality,” an Ofcom spokesman said.

“A discussion about the UK’s security policies did not include an adequate range of viewpoints.”

One complaint was filed against Tucker Carlson Tonight.

Fox News ceased to broadcast in the UK on August 29 and the licence was formally surrendered to the media regulator on November 1.

The Ofcom ruling comes as the channel’s parent, Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox, attempts to seize control of the 61% of broadcaster Sky it does not already own in an £11.7 billion deal.

21st Century Fox is controlled by the Murdoch family – Rupert and his sons Lachlan and James – and the deal is currently undergoing a probe by the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA), the scope of which will include its impact on media plurality and broadcasting standards.

The CMA has around six months to investigate the merger and provide Culture Secretary Karen Bradley with advice, after which she must then come to a final decision on whether or not the merger can proceed, including any conditions that will apply in order to do so.

The CMA also faces the task of delving into claims of misconduct at Fox in the US, which have ranged from alleged racial and sexual harassment to making up quotes.


 

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