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Ofcom rules Fox News broke impartiality rules

November 7, 2017

Ofcom has ruled that the Fox News shows Hannity and Tucker Carlson Tonight breached British broadcasting impartiality rules.

The rulings referred to the Manchester Arena bombing in May and Donald Trump’s executive order in January that restricted travel to the US from seven majority-Muslim countries.

Sky pulled Fox News from its platform in Britain in August. Ofcom said it was publishing the rulings despite Fox News no longer being broadcast in the UK “to ensure there is a complete compliance record and to facilitate public understanding of the code”.

An episode of Tucker Carlson Tonight on May 25th, days after the Manchester terrorist attack, accused the British government and authorities of failing to counter terrorism, stop radicalisation and protect “thousands of underage girls” from rape and abuse. It included claims that authorities failed to act because of political correctness and because they valued how people saw them over the lives of children. They were accused of forcing an “official lie” on citizens that was “totalitarian” and “wicked”.

Ofcom’s ruling concluded there was “no reflection of the views of the UK government or any of the authorities or people criticised” and the presenter “did not challenge the views of his contributors; instead, he reinforced their views.”

Ofcom found the programme breached rules 5.9, 5.11 and 5.12 of the British broadcasting code. These relate to adequate representation of alternative views on discussions programmes, due impartiality on matters of major political or industrial controversy, and including a wide range of significant views when dealing with major political or industrial controversy.

“Ofcom considered that viewers were likely to have expected the programme to comment critically on various political targets, which in this case included the UK government and UK authorities more generally. However, we considered that these contextual factors were not sufficient to remove the need for the programme to also reflect significant alternative viewpoints, and treat these with due weight,” said the regulator.

On Hannity, Ofcom said a programme on January 31st included video clips of public figures reacting critically to Trump’s travel ban in an opening monologue, but these views were criticised and ridiculed with no opportunity to respond.

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