UK regulator invited Media Matters to testify at hearing for 21st Century Fox, Sky deal
Posted October 31, 2017 9:17 a.m. EDT
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — The UK regulator investigating 21st Century Fox's proposed takeover of UK broadcaster Sky plc heard testimony last week from a longtime Fox foe: The liberal watchdog group Media Matters.
The group's president Angelo Carusone told CNN that he testified on Friday in front of UK's Competition and Markets Authority and protested Fox's plans to take over the remaining share of Sky that Rupert Murdoch's company doesn't already own.
It's the first time Media Matters was invited by British regulators to speak to them regarding the proposed deal. The Washington D.C.-based group did not testify in an earlier investigation into the deal conducted by another British media regulator, Ofcom. Media Matters only sent in submissions that detailed their concerns.
Carusone told CNN that he hammered 21st Century Fox on several fronts during the hearing. He cited examples of Fox News publishing inaccurate information as a problem. He also said he told the regulators it's troubling that Fox has commentators who have a direct interest in the matter they speak about, but do not acknowledge the conflict of interest, and said he brought up what he says are Fox's blurred lines between what is news and what is commentary on air.
Carusone said he also testified about issues of corporate governance at Fox and 21st Century Fox, and brought up an instance in which he said Fox News tried to obtain the phone records of one of their staffers who was reporting on the network. The incident, Caruson said, is reminiscent of another Murdoch company's phone hacking scandal in which News of the World staffers were accused of hacking the phones of celebrities, including those in the Royal Family. Fox News has denied it sought the phone records of the Media Matters staffer.
"[The company] can be influential in terms of going after and attacking and they also can be retaliatory," Carusone said.
The CMA invited Media Matters to testify last week, citing them as a "relevant third party." Carusone said he testified in a two-hour hearing in London on Friday afternoon alongside several progressive groups such as Avaaz and political activism petition groups like 38 degrees and Change.org.
British regulators are in the middle of a six month investigation into whether they will recommend to the U.K. secretary of media and culture that 21st Century Fox is fit to completely own Sky. Regulators are evaluating the takeover based on how the ownership will affect the media market (media plurality) and whether the company would maintain broadcasting standards. The investigation involves speaking with any and all relevant parties at the two companies, as well as others who might provide additional insight and evidence for consideration.
Media Matters has long been a thorn in the side of Fox News and its parent company 21st Century Fox. The group religiously watches and catalogues Fox News, blasting out missives about what it deems is biased or inaccurate coverage.
A spokesperson for 21st Century Fox declined to comment.
Media Matters was not invited to speak with Ofcom investigators. Some of the women who have made accusations of sexual harassment during their time at Fox, such as Wendy Walsh, did testify to Ofcom earlier this year. Attorney Douglas Wigdor, who represents 20 Fox News accusers, was also invited to appear before Ofcom.
A transcript of Friday's hearing will be released in the coming weeks.