As if the bid by the Murdoch mafiosi for the 61% of Sky that they do not yet own had not been dealt a grievous enough blow by Rupert Murdoch taking personal control of Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse), his son James has now admitted that he is either a liar (seriously bad) or terminally inept (even worse). Once again, the cause of their familial discomfort is the fall-out from the inappropriate conduct of FNC hosts.
James Murdoch - he didn't ask
Former top rating host Bill O’Reilly had, it seemed, settled a sexual harassment case, brought by former FNC legal analyst Lis Wiehl, privately for an amount not unadjacent to $32 million. James Murdoch has now been reported as saying “It was news to me when we saw that number the other day” - in other words, he claimed he did not know about the settlement. Moreover, he has suggested his now knowing is no big deal.
“It’s easy to look from the outside and say, ‘Didn’t you know that?’ I think the issue becomes, how do you react to those things [after they are revealed]” was his get-out. But here a problem enters: Media Matters for America, which has been on FNC’s case for some years, and has now joined with groups such as Avaaz, 30 Degrees and Hacked Off in opposing the Murdochs’ 100% Sky takeover, suggests this is not true.
Bill O'Reilly - he didn't tell
“Sources told [The New York Times’ Emily Steel and Michael Schmidt] that 21st Century Fox executives knew of the Wiehl settlement as they moved to renew O’Reilly’s contract in the beginning of the year” they tell, adding “Even if the Murdochs were somehow not taking into account any other report made about O’Reilly’s serial harassment - the earliest known incident of which took place in 2004 - they were undoubtedly aware of this very new and specific reported misconduct as they oversaw contract matters at the start of the year”. Bill-O’s new contract included protections for FNC in case of harassment claims.
But FNC, it seems, did not seek to find out the actual value of the O’Reilly-Wiehl settlement, to which the WaPo concludes “It is plausible that Murdoch didn’t know the sum of O’Reilly’s settlement with Wiehl. And yes, there is no excuse for such plain and self-serving ignorance”. MMFA will have reported all that to the Culture Secretary.
And the Wiehl case was not the only one: O’Reilly’s creepy and aggressive behaviour has been documented elsewhere, with Michael Panter giving a particularly graphic example. But, as the WaPo also concludes, “The takeaway from the 21st Century Fox statement is that O’Reilly’s bosses wanted to keep the hundreds of millions of advertising dollars yielded by ‘The O’Reilly Factor’. They didn’t want to have to make further changes to the prime-time Fox News lineup … And they really didn’t want to know all the details about O’Reilly, or at least how much money was required to clean up his workplace messes”.
As long as the money rolled in, and the profits kept on being delivered year-on-year, the management at FNC - that would now be Rupert Murdoch himself - didn’t want to know how badly their top talent was behaving. That is what happens at a broadcaster which is right now 100% owned by the Murdochs. And the man who would by the Sky King - Murdoch’s son James - has now conceded ineptitude or dishonesty. Or both.
How much longer do we have to wait for the Murdochs’ Sky bid to be thrown out?