Sexual harassment claims at US TV network cast doubt on Murdoch’s proposed £11.7bn takeover of Sky in Europe
https://www.theguardian.com/media/20...y-takeover-bid
One of the women accusing former Fox News presenter Bill O’Reilly of sexual harassment is to meet Ofcom next week, as the growing scandal at Rupert Murdoch’s US media empire threatens its proposed takeover of Sky in Europe.

Wendy Walsh, a former guest on Fox’s top-rating The O’Reilly Factor, alleges that the TV host reneged on a job offer after she declined to join him in his hotel suite. The psychologist and radio host claims that after she declined the invitation she lost her regular segment on Fox.

Walsh and Lisa Bloom, a lawyer representing Walsh and other women who have made allegations against O’Reilly, are to meet the UK media regulator on Monday.

Walsh is one of five women who have accused O’Reilly of inappropriate behaviour and have since settled with the company.

The regulator is investigating whether Murdoch’s £11.7bn takeover of Sky would give him too much control of UK news media and whether or not he is a “fit and proper” owner.

Bloom wrote to Ofcom
last month, linking the scandal at 21st Century Fox and the bid to take over the 61% of Sky that Murdoch doesn’t already own.

In the letter Bloom accused Fox News of having an “utter disregard for the rights of women” and creating a “toxic culture”.

She said: “Fox’s failure to intervene to protect the rights of its female journalists, its secret payouts, and use of intimidation tactics are reminiscent of Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid phone-hacking scandal in 2011, when it emerged that News of the World reporters had hacked the voicemail of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.

“The similarities between the current harassment scandal and the phone-hacking scandal reveal the company’s approach to business and management – a lack of oversight, intervention and decency.”

Clark and Bloom’s meeting with Ofcom comes as allegations of sexual and racial discrimination at 21st Century Fox deepen.

A lawyer representing 20 victims of alleged gender and race discrimination and harassment at Fox News has also been invited for talks with Ofcom next Thursday after writing to the media regulator about 21st Century Fox’s proposed takeover of Sky.

Douglas Wigdor, a partner at law firm Wigdor, said: “I am pleased that Ofcom has invited me to appear in London next week on behalf of our 20 clients and look forward to sharing the information that I have come to learn about 21st Century Fox through the dedicated men and women that I am privileged to represent.”

On Monday, Bill Shine, the network’s co-president and a long-time lieutenant of the ousted chief executive Roger Ailes, left the company. His departure follows the exits of O’Reilly and Ailes, both amid charges that they harassed women. Shine was not accused of harassment, but there were questions over what he knew about the network’s workplace atmosphere.

In the UK, senior politicians, including the former Labour leader Ed Miliband and the ex-business secretary Vince Cable, have been outspoken critics of Murdoch’s proposed takeover.

Ofcom is due to report to the government on two Sky investigations by 20 June.

During its investigation after Murdoch’s previous attempt to take over Sky in 2010, which was derailed by the phone-hacking scandal, Ofcom found that Sky remained a fit and proper owner of a broadcast licence.

However, it published a scathing assessment of James Murdoch, the then chief executive of his father’s UK newspaper group and chair of Sky, finding that his conduct had repeatedly fallen short of the standards expected.

The political fallout ultimately resulted in Rupert Murdoch withdrawing his bid and James Murdoch standing down as chairman of Sky and quitting the UK newspaper business to run Fox, the film and TV operation, from the US.

James Murdoch is now chief executive of Fox and chair of Sky.

After the failure of the previous bid, Rupert Murdoch spun off the publishing and newspaper assets into a separate company, News Corp, and film and TV into 21st Century Fox, with independent boards, in part as a corporate governance measure to facilitate another tilt at Sky.

In a letter sent to the culture secretary, Karen Bradley
, during the 10-day period she had to review whether to refer the bid to Ofcom, Fox argued that in the six years since the aborted bid, the media landscape had changed beyond recognition. It said media plurality was flourishing with the rise of digital rivals, such as Google and Facebook and news distributors, and new outlets, such as Vice, BuzzFeed and the Huffington Post, while newspaper sales declined.

Fox also argues that splitting the publishing and TV and film operations into two companies solves corporate governance, competition and plurality issues.

A spokesman for 21st Century Fox said: “21CF has taken prompt and decisive action to address allegations of sexual harassment and workplace issues at Fox News.”

This article was amended on 6 May to clarify that Ofcom will report to the government, not publish its decision, on two Sky investigations by 20 June.