BY ALEXIA JAMES
The fit and proper person test is being applied right now as part of an open consultation by media regulator Ofcom into Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox’s proposed £11.7bn takeover of Sky. Ofcom have heard claims of alleged sexual harassment by former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, amid pressure to derail the multi-billion-pound deal.
Lawyer Lisa Bloom travelled to London with Dr Wendy Walsh to appear before Ofcom this week. Walsh let The New York Times know last month that, after she rebuffed O’Reilly’s advances, he did not follow through on an offer to make her a regular contributor to his popular evening show. Bloom claims that the toxic culture at Fox News casts doubt on 21st Century’s capability to satisfy the UK’s strict takeover rules. Combined with phone hacking at Murdoch-owned The News Of The World (of course, now defunct), Bloom penned in a letter to Ofcom last month that “the company’s approach to business and management [includes] a lack of oversight, intervention, and decency.”
It was the phone hacking scandal which wrecked a previous Murdoch bid for full control of Sky. In 2012, a UK parliamentary committee ruled that Murdoch was “not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company”.
But how can Ofcom take into account any of Bloom’s or Walsh’s testimony? There were some pay-outs a decade ago regarding sexual impropriety at Fox but nothing has yet been judged in a court of law. Ofcom cannot be seen to be speculating, surely?
If Ofcom revert to the 2012 parliamentary committee judgment that Murdoch was not a fit and proper person, then so be it, but the parliamentary committee is no court of law; it’s just a parliamentary talking shop. In any case, 21st Century Fox in 2017 is, mostly, a completely different set of executives in charge, who have no relation to phone hacking in the slightest. Those persons charged with phone hacking are no longer linked to Murdoch organisations and haven’t been for years.
Which brings me to the BBC’s part in all this.
The BBC have been all over this story like a rash. They still see the Murdochs as the greatest threat to their cosy UK monopoly built on the unfair license fee, which still causes so much misery, especially to the threatened families of poorer areas of Britain who are obliged by law to pay the BBC fee and are then approached by aggressive inspectors and fee-collecting bailiffs even if the last thing they want to do is watch any BBC products. Sky produces some fantastic content, its newsreaders are far better looking and its delivery is far slicker. Fox combining with Sky is a huge threat to their stress-free existence across most content areas. Look how Sky has murdered the BBC with its sport content – the same could happen across other content areas.
Is it only me who sees the utter hypocrisy in the BBC’s Amol Rajan approaching Rupert Murdoch on a Manhattan street asking him if he thinks Fox is fit and proper to take over Sky when it has sex scandals hanging over it? How can BBC News be full of this story given its shocking recent past?
Sex Scandals?! BBC?!?!?!?!
Do we need to go back over the BBC sex scandals that have now tarnished most of its history?
OK, let’s do that:
The issue of child sexual abuse by BBC employees was publicised nationally in October 2012 as part of the Jimmy Savile sexual abuse scandal. Allegations of sexual abuse by Savile and other BBC employees like Stuart Hall were reported to have taken place in a number of locations across the country, including BBC Television Centre. Sir Michael Lyons, former chairman of the BBC Trust, suggested that the consequences spread beyond the BBC, in particular in the license given to celebrities. The former Controller of BBC Two, Jane Root, suggested that there was an overlap between casual sexism in the BBC and the activities of Savile. The ensuing coverage encouraged other victims to come forward with allegations of abuse. Andrew O’Hagan, writing in the London Review of Books suggested that “paedophilia is an ethos and institutional disorder that’s thrived in premier entertainment labyrinths”. A Panorama investigation, broadcast on 22 October 2012, reported on what they considered to have been a BBC-linked paedophile ring that may have operated for at least twenty years and possibly as long as forty years. Respected BBC World Affairs editor John Simpson described the crisis facing the BBC as its “biggest crisis for over 50 years”.
So, the BBC questioning Rupert Murdoch over sex scandals is A-Grade Hypocrisy that only the likes of the BBC could come up with. The equivalent of a paedophile judge passing sentence on an alleged groper before any evidence has been properly heard.
What a tawdry organisation. Why should the British continue to be sullied by the word British in its name?