Why Culture Secretary Karen Bradley suddenly stopped looking as if she was going to green light the bid by the Murdoch mafiosi for the 61% of Sky that they do not yet own, and instead decided to refer the bid on the twin grounds of media plurality and broadcasting standards, has, as I noted recently, much to do with the effectiveness of behind the scenes lobbying - especially from Media Matters for America.
MMFA has a lot to teach those of us on this side of the North Atlantic when it comes to holding power to account, and they have had access to plenty of material from which to learn. That is down to the activities of Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse), which, since the ousting of its founder Roger Ailes - again, for persistent bad behaviour - has been under the personal control of Rupert Murdoch himself.
FNC has seen top-rated host Bill O’Reilly follow Ailes out the door, with professional loudmouth Sean Hannity looking like he may be next in the firing line. But now has come another accusation of not just bad behaviour, but the criminal kind: FNC offshoot Fox Business Network has been the target of a rape accusation.
As Axois has reported, “Scottie Nell Hughes, a conservative political commentator, sued Fox News Monday alleging Fox Business host Charles Payne raped her and the network retaliated against her following her allegations … Payne, host of ‘Making Money,’ was suspended in July pending an investigation into Hughes' allegations. He returned to the air earlier this month. He has denied the allegations”.
The report helpfully tells “Why it matters: Fox has been rocked by sexual harassment allegations have have led to millions of dollars in legal settlements and the departure of Chairman Roger Ailes and host Bill O’Reilly”. What it does not tell, but what is all too obvious to UK media watchers, is that the allegation impinges on the Sky bid.
And the detail is as unseemly as the claim suggests: “Hughes claims in the suit that Payne forced his way into her hotel room in July 2013 before sexually assaulting her, and says she was coerced into having a sexual relationship with him for the next two years in order to secure opportunities at Fox … She further alleges that after she ended the relationship she was blacklisted from the network, and after she raised the allegations Fox leaked a story about her to the National Enquirer”. Will Ms Bradley find out?
More to the point, it is certain, with the inevitability of night following day, that Karen Bradley will already have found out: MMFA will make sure of that. She can then add this latest disturbing incident to the catalogue of FNC disturbing incidents and note that Rupe is now the man who is presiding over this sad organisation.
That will mean the Government will be more determined to stand firm in the face of Murdoch machination and bluster. And unless FNC stops the torrent of bad news, it is going to become the nail that seals the Sky bid coffin.