Double standards remain the currency of choice at the Murdoch family’s pet companies, News Corp and 21st Century Fox. There’s one rule for Fox News on-air stars and another for everybody else, including former Fox News boss, Roger Ailes. A year ago this July, the Murdoch sons, Lachlan and James, forced Roger Ailes, the long time head of Fox News Channel, out of the company with US$40 million “go away money”. At the weekend it was reported that Bill O’Reilly, Fox’s News’ biggest star, has just been re-signed by Fox management, despite a long New York Times report detailing five instances of sexual harassment claims against O’Reilly by former staffers and associates, which resulted in multimillion-dollar payouts. Ailes must be spewing because O’Reilly has settled some of the claims against him personally, and remained employed by the Murdochs. Ailes was deemed to be a liability and paid to walk.

All up Fox News and 21st Century Fox look like they have paid out close to US$100 million to settle sexual harassment and other allegations against Ailes, O’Reilly and other senior Fox News staff. There’s US$40 million to Ailes, US$13 million in five cases detailed by the Times, US$20 million paid to Gretchen Carlson, the original complainant against Ailes, and between US$10 and US$20 million to settle a number of other cases. Many of these cases have not been disclosed to shareholders by Fox or the Murdoch dominated management and remain the focus of regulatory investigations in the US.

The variable treatment of O’Reilly and Ailes compared to the how the management at the News Corp-owned Sky News in Australia handled Mark Latham. Nothing was done as Latham insulted … well, just about everyone. And even when he bagged ABC radio host Wendy Harmer, nothing was done for days. Then he insulted a teenage Sydney school boy, accusing him of being “gay” becasue he supported feminism. That generated an outcry on top of Harmer’s request for an apology. Sky News did nothing until CEO Angelos Frangopoulos returned from holiday, and Latham was then sacked, with an unreserved apologies to Harmer and Sky colleague Kristina Keneally broadcast last week.

The New York Times pointed out: “This is a sensitive time for Fox News as it continues to deal with the fallout of the Ailes scandal. The network is facing an investigation by the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan, which is looking into how the company structured settlements. Fox News has said that neither it nor 21st Century Fox has received a subpoena but that they have ‘been in communication with the U.S. attorney’s office for months’.” The Times story has increased the risks for Fox, 21st Century Fox and the Murdochs. They might need a mate in the White House to make it all go away. — Glenn Dyer

Peter Fray

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