“Are you ready for a British Fox News?”, asked the Evening Standard, twelve days after a violent mob stormed the US Capitol, in an attack widely believed to have been spurred on by conspiracy theories broadcast via the Murdoch-owned channel.
Fox News is notorious for racism, climate change denial, and dangerous misinformation on COVID19. Its toxic business model of using inflammatory commentary to boost ratings – and thereby also advertising revenue – has even led some to characterise Fox as a “hazard” to US democracy.
So talk of multi-million pound plans to “test whether there is appetite for a Fox News style channel in the UK” has caused growing concern.
Polarising UK news
Reports first surfaced in August 2020 that the former Downing Street Director of Communications Robbie Gibb was raising funds to launch GB News, a 24-hour “Fox News style” channel to challenge the BBC. Gibb was quoted as suggesting this was necessary, in part because Britain’s globally-respected public service broadcaster had been “culturally captured” by “woke-dominated group think”.
Meanwhile, Rupert Murdoch’s News UK – part of the media group that launched the original Fox News – was reported to be working on a rival “Fox News style” TV channel of its own.
Soon afterwards it was revealed that the UK Government is planning to put the controversial former Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre in charge of the broadcasting regulator Ofcom, which will oversee GB News as well as the BBC.
With our country already heavily polarised by political division, amid the deadliest pandemic in a century and challenging economic times ahead, many feel that the “Foxification” of our broadcast media is the last thing Britain needs.
History reminds us that at moments like these there is a heightened danger of minority groups being demonised and scapegoated for society’s problems.
As one commentator put it: “Imagine being the country that has watched the last four years unfold in the US, with its bloodlines so easily traceable to the Fox sensibility, and is nonetheless thinking: let’s have a bit of that”.