Fox News’ parent company, 21st Century Fox, has been working to acquire UK media company Sky plc. If attorney Doug Wigdor has anything to say about it, however, it won’t happen. Wigdor represents Rod Wheeler, the investigator currently suing Fox for what he claims was a bogus article that falsely attributed information to him to support a story that former Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was killed because of ties to WikiLeaks. 21st Century Fox has to be approved by UK governing body Ofcom before the purchase goes through, and now Wigdor has submitted a letter to Ofcom arguing that the Rich story and the ensuing lawsuit provide evidence that they may not be worthy of approval.
In his letter, viewed by LawNewz.com, Wigdor wrote:
[Y]ou may find that the allegations in this lawsuit shed new light on whether 21st Century Fox Executives were forthcoming and transparent with Ofcom during its investigation, as well as the question whether 21st Century Fox is capable of accurately and truthfully delivering news to the public.
The letter details the allegations in Wheeler’s lawsuit, and calls the Seth Rich article “fake news,” that “included two critical, but substantively false, statements purportedly made by Mr. Wheeler,” the only named source in the story. Wigdor implies that Fox News pushed the story and its general narrative to aid President Donald Trump by using it to argue that Russia was not behind the hack of DNC emails. Wigdor notes that Fox News eventually retracted the story, but did not admit to making up quotes attributed to Wheeler.
One of the issues at play in 21st Century Fox’s attempt to purchase Sky is “media plurality,” and whether the acquisition would result in Rupert Murdoch and his family, who owns Fox, controlling too much of the media. The UK’s Secretary of State for Culture has said she would refer this question to the Competition and Markets Authority for an investigation. Wigdor wrote that “Mr. Murdoch, through Fox, already controls a vast amount of media enterprises,” and that owning Sky would allow him to further invest resources “to further their own financial and policy objectives.”
This isn’t the first time that Wigdor has gone to Ofcom presenting a case against 21st Centruy Fox in their hopes to buy Sky. Wigdor and his law firm also represent more than a dozen current and former Fox News employees in discrimination lawsuits. Wigdor has communicated with Ofcom in the past regarding these cases, arguing that they show that 21st Century Fox does not meet the governing body’s standard of being “fit and proper” to hold a UK broadcast license.
In a statement obtained by LawNewz.com, Wigdor said:
As part of Ofcom’s investigation into the $14 billion takeover, regulators met with Fox Executives, including James and Lachlan Murdoch, and Gerson Zweifach, General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer. The Fox Executives told Ofcom that Fox was fit to report the news in a nonpartisan manner and that the Company had introduced “new corporate governance policies.” In our complaint filed August 1, 2017 on behalf of Rod Wheeler, the allegations show that at the same time that Mr. Zweifach and the Murdochs were busy explaining that Fox had “cleaned house,” Fox was generating a fake news story intended to influence public perception that Russian hackers were not responsible for the DNC email hacking, and that President Trump did not collude with the Russians during this election bid.
LawNewz has reached out to 21st Century Fox for comment. In the past, the company has stated regarding this matter:
We welcomed the recent statement by the Secretary of State that “Ofcom is unequivocal” regarding 21CF’s genuine commitment to broadcasting standards, following advice from the independent regulator which found “there are no broadcasting standards concerns which may justify a reference by the Secretary of State to the Competition and Markets Authority.”