Why The Fox News vs Dominion Case Matters, Even in the UK pt. 2
The settlement sent shockwaves through the media world.
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For a brief period earlier this week, Wilmington, Delaware was the centre of the media universe. It was there that the Fox News vs Dominion lawsuit was set to play out. The voting technology company was taking the Rupert Murdoch-owned network to court over claims its tech helped rig the election.
The media scrum, and others cheering on Dominion, were left disappointed. The jury trial, in which Murdoch, Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson were set to be called as witnesses, never happened. Just hours before the whole thing was meant to kick off, a settlement was announced. Fox is to pay Dominion $787.5 million.
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In a statement, Dominion CEO John Poulos said:
Fox has admitted to telling lies about Dominion that caused enormous damage to my company, our employees and our customers. Truthful reporting in the media is essential to our democracy.
In its own statement, Fox News said:
We are pleased to have reached a settlement of our dispute with Dominion Voting Systems. We acknowledge the Court’s rulings finding certain claims about Dominion to be false. This settlement reflects FOX’s continued commitment to the highest journalistic standards. We are hopeful that our decision to resolve this dispute with Dominion amicably, instead of the acrimony of a divisive trial, allows the country to move forward from these issues.
That’s one way of putting it…
Fox faces another lawsuit from one of Dominion’s rivals, Smartmatic. That is a $2.7 billion lawsuit. Dominion is also taking on other, smaller right-wing networks One America News and Newsmax, as well as some individuals of election rigging claims.
As I wrote previously, it would be easy for us in the UK to ignore this whole farrago, but what happens in the US often, eventually, makes its way across the Atlantic. Look at the acrimony after the Brexit referendum - a close result can to lead to all sorts of claims and counterclaims from various outlets.
It is worth noting that our voting system is different to that of the US. We still have old-fashioned hand counting of ballot papers. Our TV networks have strict rules over political neutrality, particularly during election campaigns. But our newspapers have much freer reign. It seems unlikely that any outlet would try and claim UK elections are rigged. Then again, it seemed unlikely that they would brand judges “enemies of the people”.
And it’s hardly like we’re not used to Murdoch companies facing the music here. The News of the World was closed after the phone hacking scandal. Murdoch himself infamously appeared in front of a parliamentary select committee over phone hacking. Perhaps that experience in some small way contributed to him not wanting to take the stand in Delaware this week.
I think that seeing how powerful media outlets can be challenged by relatively small companies means that both firms and individuals will not tolerate lies being told about them and that media outlets will be warier about what they say. I’d like to think so anyway.
Ultimately, this huge settlement shows that the truth is worth fighting for and that the powerful can be held to account. That matters whatever country you are in.
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