Ofcom censures Fox News over BBC slurs

Media regulator Ofcom has reproached Fox News for accusing the BBC of lying and antiAmericanism, in a personal opinion spot broadcast on the day the Hutton report was published.

US-based Fox News, available to Sky subscribers in the UK and therefore under Ofcom jurisdiction, breached the Programmes Code on three counts by not showing “a respect for truth” in its report and for failing to give the BBC the opportunity to defend itself on the programme.

Fox News also breached the code by allowing the opinions expressed to “rest upon false evidence”.

On 28 January, John Gibson presenter of The Big Story: My Word, accused the BBC of a “frothing-at-the-mouth anti-Americanism that was obsessive, irrational and dishonest”.

He also said the BBC’s appointment of an adviser to monitor “pro-Arab bias” and a Google internet search under the phrase “BBC AntiAmerican” that yielded 47,200 hits, were proof of its anti-Americanism.

He added that the broadcaster “felt entitled to lie and, when caught lying, felt entitled to defend its lying reporters and executives” and that, “far from blaming itself, insisted its reporter had a right to lie – exaggerate – because, well, the BBC knew that the war was wrong, and anything they could say to underscore that point had to be right”.

Gibson also said that the former BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan, while reporting from Baghdad during the Gulf War, had “insisted on air that the Iraqi Army was heroically repulsing an incompetent American Military”.

A total of24 viewers complained to Ofcom that the item was “misleading” “went far beyond reasoned criticism” and “misrepresented the truth”.

The regulator said in its ruling: “We do not accept that the Hutton inquiry supported the statement that the ‘BBC felt entitled to lie and when caught lying, felt entitled to defend its lying’,” “The inquiry stated that the BBC editorial system was ‘defective’. At no stage did Hutton accuse the BBC management of lying.”

Ofcom said the ruling would go on record and would be taken into account if Fox News made the same breach in the future. This is the third time the broadcaster has been censured by British media regulators in seven months after giving “undue prominence to” commercial products on its bulletins last year.

By Wale Azeez

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