British Media Regulator Slams Fox News for Breaking Impartiality Rules

(CN) – British media regulator Ofcom censured Fox News on Monday after concluding that programs hosted by Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson violated the United Kingdom’s broadcasting code by breaching impartiality rules.

The two specific broadcasts in question included a discussion regarding Donald Trump’s attempt to impose a travel ban on seven predominately Muslim nations and the UK government’s response to the Manchester bombing that killed 22 people following an Ariana Grande concert on May 22.

The ruling comes two months after Fox News stopped broadcasting in the United Kingdom. It formally surrendered its license to the media regulator on Nov. 1.

But it’s an uncomfortable turn of events for Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox, Fox News’ parent company, as it tries to gain control of the 61 percent of broadcaster Sky that it does not already own, a deal valued at $15.3 billion.

The regulator acknowledged that Fox News viewers expected the channel to comment critically on political targets, but said other views should also have been considered.

The “Hannity” episode that drew the Ofcom’s ire was broadcast on Jan. 31. On it, Hannity discussed the travel ban and also President Donald Trump’s list of potential Supreme Court candidates. The regulator said it received a complaint about the show and objected to its tone because the issues discussed would impact large numbers of international citizens and people living in the United Kingdom.

It noted that Hannity opened the show that night with a monologue in which he “repeatedly dismissed or ridiculed” opponents of the travel ban.

“During the rest of the program, the presenter interviewed various guests who were all prominent supporters of the Trump administration and highly critical of those opposed to the order,” Ofcom said. “The presenter consistently voiced his enthusiastic support for the order and the Trump administration.”

“Tucker Carlson Tonight” was also found to be in breach of impartiality rules over a May 25 broadcast in which the reaction of the UK government and the UK authorities to the Manchester terror attack was brought into question.

“A discussion about the UK’s security policies did not include an adequate range of viewpoints,” the regulator said.

“There was no reflection of the views of the U.K. Government or any of the authorities or people criticized, which we would have expected given the nature and amount of criticism of them in the program. The presenter did not challenge the views of his contributors; instead, he reinforced their views,” Ofcom said.

In addition, it said, it included “accusations that particular individuals and public bodies had done nothing to: counter terrorism; stop radicalization; protect citizens from terrorism; or protect ‘thousands of underage girls’ from rape and abuse.”

Sky dropped Fox News from its United Kingdom lineup in August, but Ofcom continued to investigate complaints about shows that aired before the channel went dark.

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