Michael Gaynor
Does the price of the Murdochs owning Sky entirely include Sean Hannity leaving Fox News?
By Michael Gaynor
May 31, 2017

Is Hannity's future at Fox News dependent upon whether the Murdochs need to drop him in order to be "fit and proper" enough to win approval of a deal to purchase the other 60% of media giant Sky?

The Murdochs own 40% of Sky and have wanted to buy the rest.

An attempt about five years failed as a result of a scandal involving Rupert Murdoch's son, James.

The Murdochs' current attempt has not yet been approved and proudly conservative and enthusiastically pro-Trump Fox News star commentator Sean Hannity is under attack from anti-Trumpers for questioning whether the murder of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich last year was a botched robbery and the target of an advertising boycott that has not caught fire but could serve as an excuse for dropping him.

Last year the Fox News weeknight hosts were Bill O'Reilly (8 PM), Sean Hannity (10 PM), Megyn Kelly (9 PM) and Greta van Susteren (7 PM).

Hannity,the most conservative an pro-Trump, is the only one remaining, an the Left wants him off Fox News.

Is Hannity's future at Fox News dependent upon whether the Murdochs need to drop him in order to be "fit and proper" enough to win approval of the Sky deal?

Perhaps Congress should be investigating whether Great Britain is trying to influence United States presidential elections.

Given the blatant liberal bias of the so-called "mainstream media" (including all the alphabet television networks and the most prominent United States newspapers, including The New York Times and the Washington Post, if Fox News becomes "mainstream" instead of "fair and balanced," President Trump would have to beat virtually the entire media as well as the 2020 Democrat presidential candidate.

The British authorities who decide whether to approve the Sky deal may want to interfere in United States politics.

On April 19, 2017, Fox News announced that Bill O'Reilly would not return to his primetime Fox News slot amid sexual harassment claims.

Sexual harassment claims against O'Reilly were old news.

Wikipedia summarized as follows (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_O%27Reilly_(political_commentator)):

"On October 13, 2004, O'Reilly sued Andrea Mackris, a former producer for The O'Reilly Factor, alleging extortion. O'Reilly claimed that Mackris had threatened a lawsuit unless he paid her more than $60 million. Later the same day, Mackris sued O'Reilly for sexual harassment, seeking $60 million in damages. Her complaint alleged that in phone conversations, O'Reilly had 'advised her to use a vibrator and told her about sexual fantasies involving her' and an allegation that he threatened that if she reported his behavior, 'Roger Ailes... will go after you... Ailes operates behind the scenes, strategizes, and makes things happen so that one day BAM! The person gets what's coming to them but never sees it coming.' On October 15, 2004, Fox sought judicial permission to fire Mackris, but she was never dismissed. On October 19, 2004, Mackris filed an amended complaint seeking further damages for illegal retaliatory actions by O'Reilly, Fox News, and the News Corporation-owned newspaper the New York Post. On October 28, 2004, O'Reilly and Mackris reached an out-of-court settlementin which Mackris dropped her sexual-assault suit against O'Reilly, and O'Reilly dropped his extortion claim against Mackris. The terms of the agreement are confidential, but in 2017 The New York Times reported that O'Reilly had agreed to pay Mackris about $9 million and that they would issue a public statement that there had been 'no wrongdoing whatsoever.'

"After Ailes was the subject of a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by former Fox News coworker Gretchen Carlson, O'Reilly said in July 2016 that Ailes was a 'target' as a 'famous, powerful or wealthy person' and called him the 'best boss I ever had.' After Ailes was fired and the network settled the lawsuit with Carlson, O'Reilly declined to comment further, saying that 'for once in my life, I'm going to keep my big mouth shut.'

"Shortly after Ailes was fired, Fox News settled a sexual harassment claim against O'Reilly with former Fox host Juliet Huddy. Huddy alleged that O'Reilly pursued a romantic relationship with her, made lewd remarks, including a telephone call during which he appeared to be masturbating, and tried to have her fired when she rejected his advances. Legal fees in this case were settled and paid for by Fox News. The New York Times reported the settlement to have been worth $1.6 million.

"In August 2016, former Fox host Andrea Tantaros filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Fox News, claiming that O'Reilly made sexually suggestive comments to her.

"In April 2017, The New York Times reported that O'Reilly and Fox News had settled five lawsuits against O'Reilly dating back to 2002. Previously, only the settlements to Mackris and Huddy were publicly reported; The Times reported that Fox hosts Rebecca Diamond and Laurie Dhue settled sexual harassment lawsuits in 2011 and 2016 respectively and junior producer Rachel Witlieb Bernstein settled with Fox in 2002 after accusing O'Reilly of verbal abuse. The amount paid to the women filing the complaints was estimated at $13 million. The Times also reported a claim by former O'Reilly Factor guest Wendy Walsh, who declined an offer from O'Reilly to go to his hotel suite and was subsequently denied a job as a Fox News contributor. Walsh appeared on The O'Reilly Factor for a few months after the hotel incident, and at one point asked producers for more airtime on the show.

"After Walsh's complaint, 21st Century Fox hired the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison to conduct an investigation into at least that allegation; that firm also conducted an investigation into the allegations against Fox News chairman Roger Ailes, which led to his ouster from Fox.

"After the five settlements were reported, the O'Reilly Factor lost more than half its advertisers within a week; almost 60 companies withdrew their television advertising from the show[amid a growing backlash against O'Reilly. On April 11, 2017, O'Reilly announced he would take a two-week vacation and would return to the program on April 24; he normally takes a vacation around Easter. On April 19, 2017, Fox News announced that O'Reilly would not be returning to the network. The program was subsequently renamed The Factor on April 19."

Were a history of sexual harassment chaims over fifteen years and a sudden loss of advertisers the only reasons O'Reilly suddenly and unceremoniously left Fox News?

CNN's Ivana Kottasova thinks not (http://money.cnn.com/2017/04/11/media/bill-oreilly-sky-murdoch-ofcom/).

Kottosova explained:

"Five years have passed since a scandal forced Rupert Murdoch to abandon his purchase of a media industry crown jewel: the British pay TV provider Sky.

"The problem then was outrage over phone hacking at Murdoch newspapers. Now, with a second takeover bid underway, accusations of sexual harassment and verbal abuse by Fox News star Bill O'Reilly are threatening to deny Murdoch his prize once again.

"European anti-trust regulators have given their blessing to a 18.5 billion ($22.9 billion) deal struck in December that would give 21st Century Fox full control over Sky.

"But a more comprehensive review by U.K. media regulator Ofcom is pending, with a decision due by May 16.

"The U.K. regulator could block the deal if it determines that Fox's ownership of Sky would reduce the mix of viewpoints available in British media. Murdoch already owns three of Britain's biggest newspapers: The Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times.

"Ofcom could also kill the deal if it decides that Murdoch and 21st Century Fox do not meet the standard of 'fit and proper' owners. The criteria for the designation are broad: Ofcom says it considers 'any relevant misconduct' when administering its 'fit and proper' test.

"The New York Times reported earlier this month that five women have been paid a total of $13 million by either O'Reilly, Fox News or parent company 21st Century Fox. In exchange, the women agreed not to pursue litigation or go public with their accusations, according to the newspaper.

"21st Century Fox (FOX) said Sunday that it is investigating the claims.

"Alice Enders, head of research at Enders Analysis, said accusations of sexual harassment at Fox are unlikely to sink the Sky deal. But Ofcom will examine whether Fox executives erred in not telling investors about the claims.

"'The test is there to make sure that a person who is a criminal doesn't get to run a broadcaster in the U.K.,' she said. 'In this case, the focus would be on the failure to disclose the sexual harassment settlements to shareholders, rather than the sexual harassment itself.'"

On April 30, 2017, a New York Times business news article (www.nytimes.com/2017/04/30/business/media/murdochs-sky-deal-britain.html?_r=2) from London by Jim Rutenberg began as follows:

"For most of the last 10 years, the Murdoch family, which controls 21st Century Fox, has wanted one thing for its global media empire above all else: the complete ownership of the popular and highly profitableSky satellite and cable network. Sky is the dominant pay television system here, a hub for Premier League soccer, movies, and networks like Fox News, MTV and Zee Punjabi. It wasRupert Murdoch who founded Sky, and 21st Century Fox already owns part of it.

"Owning it outright, however, would give the Murdochs an important new cash generator to feed the rapacious appetite for growth and conquest that has made their family business the most influential media conglomerate in the world – one that helped hasten Britain's 'Brexit' from the European Union and helped deliver Donald J. Trump to the White House. But three words threaten to stand in the way: 'fit and proper.'

"'Fit and proper' is that so-perfectly British standard by which regulators here decide whether a company should be allowed to gain and retain broadcast licenses."

Is it also the means to make Fox News drop Hannity?

© Michael Gaynor


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)

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Michael Gaynor

Michael J. Gaynor has been practicing law in New York since 1973. A former partner at Fulton, Duncombe & Rowe and Gaynor & Bass, he is a solo practitioner admitted to practice in New York state and federal courts and an Association of the Bar of the City of New York member... (more)


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