Rupert Murdoch has had to dig deep to avoid embarrassing trial about Fox News lies
It’s a huge chunk of Rupert Murdoch’s money. $787.5 million.
That’s how much he had to pay a voting machine company you may never have heard of to prevent this landmark case from going to trial.
It was to be a trial about truth, about lies, about an election and about America’s most influential and most watched cable news network.
The jury had been selected. The court was poised. The judge was ready. The opening statements written. And then a delay. Several hours of silence. We now know a settlement was being finalised.
The speculation, indeed the logic, had always been that Mr Murdoch would not want this to go to trial. But wow did he leave it until the last second to settle.
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The humiliation of a five to six week trial would never had been remotely in his or his company’s interest, commentators argued.
The truth is though that the lid had already been lifted on the inner workings of the Fox newsroom.
The true views of the anchors (they didn’t believe that Dominion was part of a fraud conspiracy) had been revealed.
We saw correspondence that suggested some in the newsroom thought fact checking was bad for business.
All this – in the form of emails and messages – was released as part of the pre-trial hearings.
In settling, Fox had prevented weeks of very embarrassing coverage. Will it prompt some introspection within the network?
Will Rupert Murdoch, for whom Fox News was always the most lucrative off-shoot from his newspapers, reflect on the company’s practices?
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The on-air reporting on Fox immediately after the settlement announcement tells its own story.
Anchor Howard Kurtz read Fox’s statement then added: “Much of the media was looking forward to six weeks of – frankly a lot of people in the mainstream media, anti-Fox, are now going to be deprived of that opportunity.”
On the steps of court after the settlement, Dominion’s CEO John Poulos said: “Truthful reporting in the media is essential to our democracy.”
Cable news in America is entertainment and it’s a business which relies on eyeballs. There are no laws on impartiality.
And in America’s polarised and siloed society, so often, they dole out what their audiences want to hear because that’s what’s good for business.