A top broadcast labor union that represents many BSkyB employees is criticizing the British government's handling of News Corp.'s bid to take over the company and blasting News Corp. for engaging in "unethical practices on a grand scale."
BECTU, an independent media labor union, also expressed concerns about how News Corp. might treat BSkyB employees in the wake of News Corp.'s decision to abruptly shut down News of the World. News Corp. has continued to employ Rebekah Brooks, who was News of the World's editor during part of the hacking scandal, and Les Hinton, who was Brooks' boss.
"I think it's safe to say that neither News International nor News Corp will be winning any prizes for fostering good industrial relations given their decision last week to close the News of the World," Sharon Elliott, BECTU communications officer, said in an e-mail Tuesday. "Our experience is that any company which is part of the Murdoch empire is wholly pragmatic; they operate in terms of the best interests of the business and not of their people."
In the past, BECTU had unsuccessfully urged Conservative culture and media secretary Jeremy Hunt to refer the News Corp./BSkyB deal to the Competition Commission for review -- an action that would have considerably slowed down approval of the deal. After the latest phone-hacking revelations, however, News Corp. itself forced the issue to be referred to the Competition Commission, a move apparently aimed at preventing the government from blocking the deal altogether.
"This is what BECTU called for from the outset, but the [referral to the Competition Commission] now in the face of the seismic developments of last week appear more focused on helping the government to save face given its previous complacency on these critical issues," Elliott told Media Matters in another e-mail Tuesday. "Murdoch too would appear to see the [referral] as a way of keeping the bid alive given the exposure of unethical practices on a grand scale which make the preferred, more cosy arrangement with the UK government a non-runner."
BECTU does not formally represent staffers at the non-union BSkyB for purposes of collective bargaining. But Elliott said British law allows staffers to seek representation from the union for grievances and labor-related issues on an individual bases.
BECTU has opposed the News Corp. takeover of BSkyB for months with several strong statements and actions aimed at stopping the effort and warning of its potential effects.
A group of News Corp. shareholders led by Amalgamated Bank has sued the media company claiming several of its business decisions, as well as the recent phone-hacking scandal at News of the World, have adversely affected shareholder interests.
The lawsuit claims, among other things, that "News Corp executives are ... grossly overpaid, ensuring their loyalty to Murdoch and his personal initiatives," later stating that Murdoch is "larding the executive ranks of the Company with his offspring."
Among the lawsuit's complaints: the company's purchase of Elisabeth Murodoch's Shine Group has harmed the shareholder value; the board as it is comprised has numerous conflicts of interest; and the phone-hacking scandal has hurt the company's reputation and investor value.
"In sum, these acts will cause a direct harm to News Corp shareholders by diluting their ability to influence the Company through the exercise of the shareholder franchise because a greater percentage of the Board will be completely beholden to Rupert Murdoch's wishes," the lawsuit, filed Friday, stated in part. "In contemplating, planning, and/or affecting the foregoing conduct, Murdoch and the other Defendants were not acting in good faith toward News Corp shareholders, and breached or will breach their fiduciary duties owed to them. As a result of these actions, News Corp shareholders have been and will be damaged."
The 94-page lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages, a determination that News Corp. board members "breached their fiduciary duties to the Company," and to block the appointment of Elisabeth Murdoch to the News Corp. board, claiming that would also be a violation of fiduciary responsibilities.
"News Corp.'s behavior has become an egregious collection of nepotism and corporate governance failures, with a board completely unwilling to provide even the slightest level of adult supervision," Jay Eisenhofer, co-managing director of Grant & Eisenhofer and co-lead counsel on the lawsuit, said in a statement.
England's top press watchdog agency appears to be facing a shutdown after Prime Minister David Cameron criticized it for failing to respond adequately to the recent phone hacking scandal.
The Press Complaints Commission of London, which is charged with reviewing complaints against the press, earlier this week renounced a report it issued in 2009 that had essentially cleared News of the World from having misled the agency in a previous review.
That admission in the wake of recent claims that the newspaper hacked into voice messages of crime victims and non-celebrities as far back as 2002 drew more scrutiny of its work.
On Friday, Cameron criticized the agency in a speech in which he essentially called for it to be dismantled and replaced, according to The Guardian.
Cameron stated in the speech today:
Let's be honest: the Press Complaints Commission has failed.
In this case - in the hacking case - it was, frankly, completely absent.
Therefore, we have to conclude that it is ineffective and lacking in rigour.
There is a strong case for saying it is institutionally conflicted, because competing newspapers judge each other.
As a result, it lacks public confidence.
So I believe we need a new system entirely.
PCC leaders issued the following statement Friday in response to Cameron:
The Press Complaints Commission has noted the Prime Minister's statement today.
We welcome that there will be a fair and open, evidence-based inquiry. We are confident that such an inquiry will recognise the considerable successes of the Press Complaints Commission, to which the Prime Minister himself referred some weeks ago.
We do not accept that the scandal of phone hacking should claim, as a convenient scalp, the Press Complaints Commission. The work of the PCC, and of a press allowed to have freedom of expression, has been grossly undervalued today.
However, as the PCC has said consistently, it believes that the outcome of phone hacking should be a more independent PCC. It is confident that it is precisely what the Prime Minister's inquiry will also have to conclude. There should be fundamental reform of the system, as we have already recognised and called for. But the PCC can, in the final evaluation, play its part in this. It is already doing so, and this can inform the work of the inquiry.
Now, it is for the newspaper and magazine industry itself to make the case for their continued independence from Government.
Meanwhile, the dedicated staff of the PCC will continue to serve the public (a service that effectively helps thousands of people every year), and uphold the ethical standards enshrined in the Code of Practice.
8 July 2011
In a statement issued today, the Press Complaints Commission of London unanimously condemned News Corp.'s News of the World over the phone-hacking scandal that has sparked outrage across the country.
The PCC, which is charged with reviewing complaints against the press, also renounced its 2009 report on phone hacking that had found News of the World had not misled the commission in an earlier 2007 review of the issue.
The statement is below:
Statement from the PCC on phone hacking following meeting today
At its regular meeting today, the Press Complaints Commission discussed the admissions of the News of the World of its involvement in the hacking of the telephone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler in 2002. There have been similar claims made in regard to other victims of crime and tragedy.
The Commission's members, both public and editorial, were unanimous in their condemnation.
The Commission was very clear that this conduct was unacceptable and self-evidently undermined assurances given to the PCC by News International in the past. It, therefore, recognises that it can no longer stand by its 2009 report on phone hacking and the assertions made in it.
At the beginning of this year, the PCC established a Phone Hacking Review Committee. It will continue to work actively, and will establish protocols across the industry to improve standards in the future.
The PCC readily accepts its responsibility, shared with others, to ensure that events of this sort should never happen again. To that end, it agreed that public members of the Commission will lead a review of all aspects of press regulation in its current form, which will be designed to ensure that public confidence is enhanced. The Commission will wish to review its own constitution and funding arrangements, the range of sanctions available to it, and its practical independence.
The Chairman of the PCC today said:
"We welcome the announcement by the Prime Minister of his proposed inquiries. The PCC is determined to identify necessary reforms that will guarantee public confidence in press regulation. Already, the PCC provides a free public service that helps thousands of people every year.
There is currently a major police investigation, which has the necessary powers of investigation and resources to identify the perpetrators of these criminal acts. However, the Commission is determined to play its part in bringing to a conclusion this shocking chapter, which has stained British journalism, and to ensure that good comes out of it."
As regard to the debate in Parliament today, the Chairman added:
"The status quo is clearly not an option, and we need to identify how the model of an independent PCC can be enhanced best to meet these challenges. Hence the action we have taken today".
Former News Corp. President Peter Chernin admits in a new TV special on Rupert Murdoch that some Fox News shows are not meant to be "factual."
The newest episode of Bloomberg TV's Game Changers, slated for 9 p.m. ET Tuesday, profiles News Corp. Chairman Murdoch, whose media empire includes Fox News, and interviews several former News Corp. employees. Promotional material for the program quotes Chernin as saying of Fox News:
"There's news on Fox News, which I happen to believe is very neutral and moderate and presented fairly. And then there's the talk and opinion shows which no one ever pretends are news and factual. And Bill O'Reilly or Sean Hannity are clearly people on the right side of the spectrum but they are always presented as such."
The incoming editor of The Washington Times tells Media Matters he was not familiar with the paper's history of inaccuracies and distortions -- including many linked to its fierce opposition of gay rights.
But Ed Kelley, who comes to the Times from The Oklahoman in Oklahoma City, vowed to make sure editorials and news stories were accurate and welcomed critics to contact the paper with concerns about such problems.
"Certainly on a case by case basis, if I come in and there is an individual or a group that complains that this editorial says something out of context, that it is just a flat-out error, or to use your term ... a distortion, you know we're going to take a look at it," said Kelley, who takes over the Times on July 1. "We want the editorials to be strong, to be persuasive, but to do so they both have to be grounded in accuracy. So, if these things are brought forth, I want people to contact me. Whether it's you or whether it's the public or any other organization if there are examples of these things occurring. I'm not there yet, won't be there for another 10 or 11 days. But certainly if this is an issue, I'm going to tackle it."
Kelley said he was unaware of the paper's history of inaccuracies and factual errors, saying only he was "familiar with its voice."
"I didn't have a print subscription, necessarily living here in Oklahoma City, certainly followed it on the web site and familiar with its voice - both in news and opinion," he said, adding that his son, Mike, had worked in the Times' sales department. "Of course having a blood relative, in this case, my youngest son working there, I knew a lot about the personalities and what they were trying to do and, again, saw how he was treated by the people several layers above him in the food chain and was impressed by that."
Media Matters has documented numerous cases of misleading and inaccurate news articles in the Times. Among them:
A May 20, 2010 article that falsely claimed that reportedly hacked emails from the University of East Anglia "seemed to suggest scientists manipulated data" and that they called "into question" "the science underpinning claims of global warming." In fact, official inquiries into the scientists' conduct found that they did not manipulate data, and despite months of false accusations from right-wing media, the content of the emails did not undermine global warming science.
A May 29, 2010 article about then-Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor's judicial temperament reported criticisms of her -- including that "[l]awyers who have argued cases before [her] call her 'nasty,' 'angry' and a 'terror on the bench' " -- but none of those criticisms came from on-the-record sources who knew Sotomayor. Indeed, the article identified the source of the "terror on the bench" quote that appeared in the headline and lead paragraph as the Almanac of the Federal Judiciary, which, as the article reported, is based on "interview[s] [with] at least eight lawyers who practice regularly before the judges and" to whom the AFJ "granted ... anonymity so that they could provide candid assessments."
The headline of a Dec. 10, 2008 article about the implications of the charges against then-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) baselessly asserted: "Scandal casts cloud over Obama presidency." In fact, the article itself noted that "[a]uthorities stressed that Mr. Obama was not involved in the far-flung corruption probe" and that U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald "told reporters, '[t]he complaint makes no allegations about the president-elect whatsoever.' "
A May 7, 2008 article stated that Barack Obama "continues to have trouble with voters' preconceived notions about him, including one man eating breakfast at an Indiana restaurant who waved him away when the candidate approached him." It uncritically quoted the man stating, "I can't stand him. ... He's a Muslim. He's not even pro-American as far as I'm concerned." The Times did not correct the false claim about Obama.
It's a poorly kept secret that many journalists are big fans of Jon Huntsman. Or as Politico editor-in-chief John Harris put it this weekend, reporters that meet Huntsman "tend to swoon" over him.
So Media Matters' Joe Strupp is attending Huntsman's formal announcement of his presidential candidacy at New Jersey's Liberty State Park in order to cover the media's coverage.
But Strupp reports that according to Huntsman aide Jake Suski, Huntsman won't be taking any questions at the event from swooning mainstream media reporters. Instead, he's apparently giving an exclusive interview to Fox News' Sean Hannity.
Strupp reports that the Fox News set is constructed about 50 yards away from the podium where Huntsman is making his announcement.
"They have the exclusive," says Suski, adding that Huntsman would be available to other reporters "later on today on the plane."
A former top anchor who worked with Fox Business' Eric Bolling at CNBC criticized Bolling's recent racist comments about Barack Obama, describing them as "ill-tempered, uncouth, (and) crass."
Ted David, who worked at CNBC from its inception in 1989 until 2009, also questioned whether Bolling had the experience to be a cable host, adding, "I never thought he was especially bright or especially skilled or astute."
"I would like to know what qualifies him to have his own program?" David told Media Matters by phone Tuesday. "I mean this is a question that I would ask if I was a manager looking to hire him. You know, what concerns me is anyone who doesn't have a heck of a lot of experience in the business commanding that amount of space and time."
David, currently a freelance journalist with more than 40 years in news, responded to Bolling's recent racially-charged criticisms of President Obama.
The first occurred last month when Bolling posted on his Facebook and Twitter accounts that Obama was "chugging 40's in IRE while tornadoes ravage MO." He repeated the line on Fox Business' Follow the Money later that night, and then tried to amend his attack by saying that he "took some heat for saying Obama should have delayed his bar crawl, or whatever he's doing over there."
This past Friday, during Follow the Money, Bolling teased a segment about the White House hosting the president of Gabon by saying, "Guess who's coming to dinner? A dictator. Mr. Obama shares a laugh with one of Africa's kleptocrats. It's not first time he's had a hoodlum in the hizzouse."
David first commented on the remarks in a post Tuesday morning on Bolling's Facebook wall. He said he initially took down his comments when they drew angry remarks against him.
"I took it down because I did not want this to be about me," he explained, adding that he reposted his initial comments again, but they were later removed by someone else.
Contacted by Media Matters Tuesday to expand on his thoughts, David said that Bolling's "crass" comments "probably feed the masses who watch him."
"In 43 years of broadcasting, and I continue on the air to this day, I have never made a comment I regretted because over that period of time, one learns self-control, judgment and maturity. Broadcasting is not for everyone," he said by phone.
Responding to the firestorm caused by his racially charged criticisms of President Obama, Fox host Eric Bolling has insisted that he is "[definitely] not a racist." But experts on race and culture tell Media Matters that Bolling's rhetoric consists of "very old racist imagery" and appears to "purposefully" invoke demeaning and harmful racial stereotypes.
Last month, Bolling posted on his Facebook and Twitter accounts that Obama was "chugging 40's in IRE while tornadoes ravage MO." He repeated the line on Fox Business' Follow the Money later that night, and then -- after being criticized -- tried to amend his attack by saying that he "took some heat for saying Obama should have delayed his bar crawl, or whatever he's doing over there."
This past Friday, during Follow the Money, he teased a segment about the White House hosting the president of Gabon by saying, "Guess who's coming to dinner? A dictator. Mr. Obama shares a laugh with one of Africa's kleptocrats. It's not first time he's had a hoodlum in the hizzouse."
While introducing the segment itself, Bolling stated: "So what's with all the hoods in the hizzy? A month after the White House hosted the rapper Common, who glorifies violence on cops, the president opened his doors to one of Africa's most evil dictators. Here's Ali Bongo, the Gabonese president, who's been accused of human rights violations and plundering billions of his country's dollars."
James Unnever, professor of criminology at the University of South Florida and co-author of A Theory of African-American Offending: Race, Racism and Crime (Routledge 2011), said such comments seek to demean Obama because of his skin color.
"It is using language that is demeaning to African-Americans and characterizes all African-Americans as having or sharing the same slangs, as if Obama would use those kinds of slang words," he said. "The use of the slang words that this person used essentially are code words for typifying African-Americans as being, if you wish, ghetto residents. Buried within that is the implication of associating blacks with crime and crime with blacks."
John Durst, associate professor of sociology at Ohio Wesleyan University, is overseeing a study on race in Columbus, Ohio. He stated in an e-mail after reviewing the comments:
These are all terms more commonly used in poor African-American communities. While not exclusively found in African-American communities, used in such a context for the President of the United States by a national media organization (conservative or not) is clearly painting a picture of Obama as a BLACK MALE who has not made it beyond the ghetto and can be portrayed in such light.
A Newspaper Guild official representing Washington Post employees expressed concern today about the paper potentially moving away from using professional journalists.
Fredrick Kunkle, co-chair of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild and a Post reporter, spoke in response to the Post asking readers to help review the 24,000 Sarah Palin e-mails being released today.
He said the union did not specifically object to the Post asking readers to look through e-mails. But he said it raises a larger issue about how much the paper plans to use inexperienced journalists and non-journalists in the future.
"We are more concerned about sort of a long-term shift to a different model of covering the news, the region, and those things," Kunkle said Friday. "In that sense, we are concerned where the Post is contemplating a model where they eliminate more professional journalist positions in favor of a model like the Patch or Huffington Post, where essentially we turn over coverage of some areas of the news to unpaid or underpaid bloggers, community journalists, people with very little experience in order to save money but to continue to create content. That bothers us or worries us."
The Post and The New York Times raised interest on Thursday when they asked readers for help in reviewing the Palin e-mails being released by the State of Alaska today.
While the Times had asked readers to review the emails online and send in their thoughts, the Post had originally asked for 100 "organized and diligent" volunteers to go through the emails and highlight those they found of interest.
The Post's original offer online stated, in part:
We are looking for 100 organized and diligent readers who will work alongside Post reporters to analyze, contextualize, and research the e-mails. Think of it as spending some time in our newsroom.
But a few hours after the initial request, Post Spokesperson Kris Coratti told Media Matters in an e-mail that the plan had changed:
We've reconsidered and revised our approach and are now inviting everyone to send us their comments. We will cull the responses and post selected comments in annotations of the e-mails.