ABC rebuked over Fox News investigation

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ACMA’s report also said the ABC had failed to include contextual material about the role of social media in inciting the Capitol riots on January 6, and had breached honest dealing requirements for the way it approached Fox News host Jeanine Pirro at her offices, and for failing to disclose the nature of her participation in the program.

But the ACMA agreed with the ABC on a range of other matters, including the accuracy of its reporting of Fox News’ ratings and a decision to broadcast statements that Fox News had supported Trump’s claims of election fraud. It said the ABC did not breach impartiality standards and did not unduly favour one perspective over another.

“The presenter asked probing questions during interviews but overall maintained a measured tone,” the report said.

ACMA’s ruling will do little to diffuse the long-running tensions that exist between Australia’s public broadcaster and media outlets controlled by Murdoch and his family, which also include local newspapers The Australian, The Daily Telegraph and The Herald Sun. It is also unlikely to put to bed concerns the Murdoch family has with reports on the way Fox News supported Trump and covered the US election.

Fox Corp chief executive Lachlan Murdoch is suing local news publisher Private Media for an article that appeared on one of its websites, Crikey, about a similar matter. Murdoch filed defamation proceedings in August over a June 29 article that described his family as “unindicted co-conspirators” of Trump following the Capitol riots. The article was taken down and then republished in August after this masthead revealed Murdoch was considering legal action.

Murdoch is in mediation with Crikey’s owners on Wednesday, but is expected to put a new statement of claim to Federal Court Justice Michael Wigney on Thursday. If Wigney accepts the new statement of claim, the process threatens to delay the defamation case by months.

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Murdoch and Fox Corp, who are facing lawsuits in the US over its coverage of the election, have taken offence to accusations of involvement in promoting a false narrative regarding the US election or in the riots at the Capitol.

A decision released by the US committee investigating the January 6 riots this week recommended criminal charges against Trump and blamed him as the reason for the attack at the Capitol.

In a final public hearing, the panel voted unanimously to refer the former president to the Department of Justice on four criminal counts: obstruction of an official proceeding of Congress, conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to make a false statement, and insurrection.

The way the ABC handles concerns about its coverage has changed since Fox News first raised its concerns. Its original complaint was handled by its audience and consumer affairs division, which is required to respond within 60 days. Complainants who were dissatisfied with the outcome could then refer the complaint to the ACMA. The regulator then decided whether it wanted to investigate the matter.

A review of how the ABC handles complaints led to the appointment of an editorial ombudsman, Fiona Cameron, who now oversees complaints about coverage.

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