Fox News' Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson programs violated Britain's broadcast standards, watchdog says

Meg James, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

Two Fox News programs -- "Hannity" and "Tucker Carlson Tonight" -- violated Great Britain's broadcast standards by providing biased views on important topics, according to Britain's media watchdog.

Britain's Office of Communications said Monday that it found a January episode of Fox News' "Hannity" and a May episode of "Tucker Carlson Tonight" in breach of Britain's broadcast standards. The programs were part of the lineup of the Fox News Channel, which was carried by pay-TV giant Sky until late August.

The Office of Communications' findings suggest more trouble for Rupert Murdoch's media conglomerate as it seeks to persuade British regulators that the company should be allowed to acquire the 61 percent of the European pay-TV company Sky that Fox currently does not own.

Fox's bid for Sky, announced late last year, has been tripped up by the sexual harassment scandal that enveloped Fox News in New York for more than a year. Instead of speedily approving Fox's $15-billion bid for Sky, Britain's secretary of state for culture, media and sports, Karen Bradley, instead referred the matter to the British Competition and Markets Authority.

Sky removed Fox News from its programming lineup Aug. 29 as regulators were increasingly scrutinizing the channel's content.

21st Century Fox Chief Executive James Murdoch has said the company expects the Sky takeover to be completed next year. Fox owns 39 percent of Sky, which has subscribers in Britain, Ireland, Germany, Austria and Italy.

But the problems at the conservative leaning Fox News continue to vex the younger generation of Murdochs, who are now running the company with their father. Lachlan Murdoch is chairman of Fox.

Fox declined to comment.

British media laws, unlike those in the U.S., require television presenters to provide fair and balanced reports. In the past, the Office of Communications, known as Ofcom, lightly regulated Fox News because the topics were mostly aimed at U.S. audiences, and because the channel had a minuscule following in Britain.


However, the Jan. 31 episode of "Hannity," which covered President Trump's ban on travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, was particularly relevant to British viewers, Ofcom said in its report. On the day before the broadcast, thousands of people in Britain joined protests. About 1.5 million people signed a petition calling on members of Parliament to cancel a visit by Trump.

The "Hannity" segment included alternative viewpoints -- video clips of public officials reacting negatively to Trump's travel ban. However, Hannity then "repeatedly dismissed or ridiculed" the people who spoke against the ban. Those lambasted by Hannity were not given "sufficient opportunity ... to challenge or otherwise respond to the criticism directed at them," the Ofcom report said.

Carlson's problematic program ran May 25, in the aftermath of the Manchester terrorist attack. The episode included "highly critical statements" about Prime Minister Theresa May and Manchester police and politicians. Statements included "accusations that particular individuals and public bodies had done nothing to: counter terrorism; stop radicalization; protect citizens from terrorism; or protect 'thousands of underage girls' from rape and abuse," the report said.

Despite the fierce criticism that British authorities failed to act because they were motivated by political correctness, "there was no reflection of the views of the U.K. Government or any of the authorities or people criticized," the report said.

"The presenter 1/8Carlson3/8 did not challenge the views of his contributors, instead, he reinforced their views," the report said.

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