The Murdoch mafiosi are still supposedly serious about bidding for the 61% of Sky that they do not yet own. But all the time, lobby groups which have recently been joined by the considerable firepower of Media Matters for America are relaying a steady stream of most unfortunate news to culture secretary Karen Bradley and the UK competition authorities.
Most of that news results from activities at just one Murdoch property, but perhaps the most significant one as far as the Sky bid is concerned, because it is a broadcaster that is already 100% controlled by them. That, of course, is Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse), where a culture of alleged sexism, harassment and racism has existed for some years, and which has recently been all over the news Stateside.
First, the FNC founder Roger Ailes was sacked, after a slew of allegations concerning his behaviour towards women. Then it was the turn of top-rating host Bill O’Reilly, who after 20 years was given his marching orders. More recently, the pressure has ramped up on professional loudmouth Sean Hannity after complaints about his conduct. Hannity’s show has been subjected to an increasing advertising boycott.
But now it has all got worse, much worse, after the scale of the payoffs became clear, and rumours began to circulate that FNC - now under the personal control of Rupert Murdoch - was angling to get O’Reilly back on board. Such a move may not be as bad as, say, welcoming Max Clifford back into the PR business, but not by much.
You think I jest here? Consider the evidence coming out of the USA right now. The first hint of what has been going on at FNC came from Brian Stelter of CNN, who told “New statement from Bill O’Reilly’s spokesman says the $32 million leak is ‘obviously designed’ to kill his chances of getting a new TV job”. What was this “$32 million”?
Yashar Ali of New Work Magazine had a further clue, Tweeting out the affidavit signed by Lis Wiehl which ended her claim against O’Reilly and commenting “O'Reilly is touting this as evidence he didn't engage in sexual misconduct. Read it and remember he had to pay $32 mil to get this signature”. Gretchen Carlson, who is one of the women who brought Ailes down, was unimpressed: “Nobody pays $32m for false allegations - nobody”.
And now that there is no claim against Bill-O, guess what? Ed Krassenstein had the answer to that one: “So Fox News has been politicizing Harvey Weinstein for his sexual assault for the past month, but they are working to bring predator Bill O’Reilly back to TV. How much more hypocritical can you get?”. How shameless would that be?
On top of that, Jake Tapper of CNN revealed the dirtiest FNC secret of all. “O'Reilly attorney: Fox has paid close to $100M in settlements to dozens of women lodging complaints against scores of male employees”. That shows not only how much money is sloshing around FNC, but also hints at the scale of misbehaviour.
So now the disgraced O’Reilly (“bestselling historian, loving father”) is able to take to Twitter to enigmatically muse “My investigative team has done a superb job in exposing the lies and smear. I will speak with you on Monday”. But James and Lachlan Murdoch want us all to know FNC has been changed from the top. No it hasn’t. Bye bye Sky bid.