Fox News dealings in the U.S. could halt a huge merger in the U.K.
A woman who accused former Fox News presenter Bill O’Reilly of sexual harassment in the United States called on Britain on Monday to block Fox’s owner Rupert Murdoch from taking full control of Britain’s pay-TV group Sky.
Wendy Walsh, a former regular guest on Fox’s The O’Reilly Factor TV show who made the claim against O’Reilly last month, met officials at the British media regulator Ofcom on Monday with her lawyer Lisa Bloom, a representative said.
Ofcom declined to comment on the visit.
The British government has asked Ofcom to assess whether it is in the public interest to allow Murdoch’s Twenty First Century Fox to buy the near 61% of London-listed Sky which it does not already own for $14.5 billion.
The deal was cleared by the European Commission last month. But the takeover is politically sensitive in Britain where a previous attempt to take full control of Sky in 2011 was derailed by a phone hacking scandal at one of Murdoch’s British newspapers, revealing close ties between politicians, police and the media.
As part of the new investigation, Ofcom is examining whether Fox would be a “fit and proper” owner of Sky, making any criticism of its conduct in other parts of its business relevant to the case in Britain.
O’Reilly parted company with Fox last month after the company said it had given “a thorough and careful review” of allegations of sexual harassment. Earlier in the month The New York Times had said Fox and O’Reilly paid five women a total of $13 million to settle harassment claims.
O’Reilly said in a statement at the time that he had been unfairly targeted because of his public prominence.
“The company’s management has taken prompt and decisive action to address reports of sexual harassment and workplace issues at Fox News,” a spokesman for 21st Century Fox fox said on Monday.
“These actions have led to an overhaul of Fox News Channel’s leadership, management and reporting structure, and have driven fundamental changes to the channel’s on-air talent and primetime programming line-up.”
Douglas Wigdor, a New York City lawyer who represents 20 current and former Fox News employees who are suing the network for alleged racial and sexual bias, said last week that he had been invited to meet with Ofcom officials on Thursday.
In a letter to Ofcom Wigdor said last week Fox had shown poor corporate governance by ignoring numerous complaints of discrimination and harassment.