Accuracy in Media

At the annual meeting of News Corporation, parent of Fox News, chairman Rupert Murdoch confirmed that a call from a Saudi Prince had resulted in a change in how the Fox News Channel covered the Muslim riots in France in 2005. Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, a significant investor in News Corporation, told Murdoch he objected to highlighting the Muslim role in the riots. Murdoch said the change was made after it was determined that there was a Catholic role in the riots.

This is strange, to say the least. I had never heard or seen it reported anywhere that there was a Catholic role in the riots.

In an October 25 editorial, “Europe’s Muslims,” the Washington Post noted that, “A year ago this week, riots erupted in mostly Muslim suburbs of Paris and other French cities?” (emphasis added).

I went back a year ago, looking at various reports of the riots. Molly Moore of the Post on November 5, 2005, reported that, “Much of the rioting has occurred in areas heavily populated by poor African Muslim immigrants?”  (emphasis added).

Murdoch told me that the call from the Saudi Prince resulted in an investigation that resulted in the change of coverage. At the time, however, Claire Cozens of the Guardian reported that Alwaleed had claimed that the coverage was changed very quickly.

“I picked up the phone and called Murdoch and said that I was speaking not as a shareholder, but as a viewer of Fox. I said that these are not Muslim riots, they are riots,” the prince reportedly said. “He [Murdoch] investigated the matter and called Fox and within half an hour it was changed from ‘Muslim riots’ to ‘civil riots.'”

The problem has gotten worse. Again, to quote from the October 25, 2006, editorial: “French police are facing what some call a ‘permanent intifada’ in Muslim neighborhoods, with nearly 2,500 incidents of violence against officers recorded in the first six months of the year. Some of these now take the form of planned ambushes: on Sunday a gang of youths emptied a bus of its passengers, set it on fire, and then stoned the firefighters who responded.”

It looks like the Muslim riots are continuing. Will Fox News cover them accurately and objectively at the risk of another phone call from the Prince?

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