The sexual harassment scandal enveloping Fox News now poses a threat to parent company 21st Century Fox’s deal to take full ownership of the European satellite TV service Sky.
Douglas Wigdor, the attorney whose firm represents 20 plaintiffs in sexual harassment and racial discrimination cases against Fox News, has been invited to appear before the Office of Communications, also known as Ofcom, the British regulatory body reviewing whether Fox should buy Sky.
“I am pleased that Ofcom has invited me to appear in London next week on behalf of our 20 clients and look forward to sharing the information that I have come to learn about 21st Century Fox through the dedicated men and women that I am privileged to represent,” Wigdor said in a statement.
According to The LA Times, the development highlights how a scandal that has prompted the resignations of top Fox News executives and star host Bill O’Reilly has become a major headache for 21st Century Fox, potentially disrupting a long-sought deal.
The New York-based Murdoch family-controlled media company for years has had ambitions to control Sky, Britain’s satellite pay-television juggernaut that boasts exclusive rights to soccer and other sporting events. Sky also sells broadband Internet service, an online streaming plan and a Sky-branded phone service. Fox currently holds a 39.1% interest in Sky, but Rupert Murdoch and his sons are determined to consolidate Fox’s ownership.
21st Century Fox, formerly known as News Corp., made its first attempt to buy Sky in 2010 for $12 billion, but pulled back following revelations that reporters and operatives for its London tabloids had hacked into cellphone messages left for members of the royal family, celebrities such as Hugh Grant and even crime victims.
Now, another controversy imperils Fox’s plans. Federal investigators have widened their probe into how Fox News handled the financial reporting of payments made to settle sexual harassment claims. The probe includes a review of ousted Fox News Chief Executive Roger Ailes’ actions while he ran the top-rated cable news operation, according to two people with knowledge of the investigation who are not authorized to discuss it.
|Lisa Bloom and Wendy Walsh|
Walsh alleged that Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly went back on a stated commitment to get her a position as a paid contributor at Fox News after she rejected his advances at a 2013 dinner meeting at the Hotel Bel-Air. The revelation of Walsh’s claim — along with the disclosure that $13 million had been paid to settle harassment claims made by other women against O’Reilly — led to the popular host’s April 19 firing.
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