Why the Fox News vs Dominion Case Matters, Even in the UK
Press freedom and truth are universally important.
The Addition is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Sitting in the UK, it would be easy to ignore the $1.6 billion case that Dominion Voting Systems is bringing against Fox News. If you haven’t been following along, the voting machine firm alleges that the TV network spread mistruths about it, essentially claiming it rigged the election to see former president Donald Trump removed from office.
There have been some embarrassing revelations as the case has gone on. For instance, a text message from Tucker Carlson, Fox’s biggest host, was revealed in which he said “I hate [Trump] passionately.” In another message he wrote:
We're all pretending we've got a lot to show for it, because admitting what a disaster it's been is too tough to digest. But come on. There isn't really an upside to Trump.
Awkward, given he spent years cheerleading for the administration.
As Margaret Sullivan noted in a recent Guardian column, Fox News is now relying on a freedom of the press defence, despite some of its highest-profile having a long history of criticising reporters and other outlets.
But Fox’s reliance on first amendment protections – while part of a legal strategy that may prove successful in court – is the height of hypocrisy. America’s founders believed it was essential that American citizens be well-informed about the behavior of public officials and other powerful entities, and thus be capable of self-governance.
The recent revelations from court filings, however, make it clear that such a noble mission was far from top of mind at Fox, not just in the aftermath of the 2020 election but going back years.
Our media environment and laws are very different on either side of the Atlantic, but the case still matters to us in the UK. For one thing, it shows powerful media organisations can be challenged if you feel they are being misleading or wrong. Freedom of the press is not the freedom to print or broadcast whatever you want, true or not.
It is also worth following as, without a doubt, some parts of the UK media are trying to copy some of what happens in the US. Broadcast regulations usually mean this is limited to inflammatory newspaper headlines - judges as “enemies of the people” - but some stations are trying to push rules around partisanship and misinformation to the limit. GBNews does not have anywhere near the reach Fox News does, nor does it have its sleek production values, but it is clearly trying to mimic some of the opinionated style of right-wing US outlets. It also takes the “standing up for real people” line that we have seen Stateside.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to The Addition to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.