WASHINGTON—Accuracy in Media (AIM) is urging a full inquiry into a report that a Saudi billionaire caused the Fox News Channel (FNC) to dramatically alter its coverage of the Muslim riots in France after he called the network to complain. The Saudi billionaire, Al-waleed bin Talal, is a friend of News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch and controls an influential number of voting shares in the company.
“This report underscores the danger of giving foreign interests a significant financial stake in U.S. media companies,” declared Cliff Kincaid, editor of Accuracy in Media.
The controversial comments came at an Arab media conference featuring representatives of Time magazine, USA Today, PBS, The Wall Street Journal, and other news organizations. The conference and the Saudi Prince’s growing influence in News Corporation are among the subjects of a new December-A AIM Report that has just been posted at the AIM website (http://www.aim.org). The report raises the specter of Arab money influencing News Corporation and other U.S. media companies.
Liberal journalist Danny Schechter, a participant in the conference, reports that Al-waleed, who is a member of the Saudi Royal Family and investor in the Fox News parent company News Corporation, gave an interview boasting that he had called Fox to complain about coverage of the “Muslim riots” in France. He said he “called as a viewer” and “convinced them to change” the coverage because “they were not Muslim riots but riots against poverty and inequality.” And “they changed” the coverage, the Saudi reportedly said.
Another report on the comments, carried by the Dubai-based newspaper the Khaleej Times, says that Al-waleed personally called Rupert Murdoch to complain. The Saudi said, “After a short while, there was a change” in the coverage.
An AIM call to Fox News asking for comment was not returned.
This is not the first time that Al-waleed has made controversial statements. His $10 million contribution to a 9/11 fund was rejected when he blamed the terror attacks on U.S. Middle East policy. Fifteen of the 19 terrorist hijackers on 9/11 came from Saudi Arabia.
Accuracy In Media (AIM) is a non-profit, grassroots citizens watchdog of the news media that critiques botched and bungled news stories and sets the record straight on important issues that have received slanted coverage.