Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News is demanding an external inquiry be conducted into two episodes of ABC’s Four Corners that focused on the American cable TV network’s coverage of former US president Donald Trump and its role in the 2020 general election.
The 27-page formal complaint was sent to the ABC’s chair Ita Buttrose and ABC managing director David Anderson on Friday, and claims the programs were an attack on Fox News and asks for a response and a correction to concerns about the two episodes within 14 days. The letter according to people familiar with its contents, alleges the ABC has breached its code of practice and the federal government’s standards for the national broadcasters.
An ABC spokesperson confirmed it received the letter and an investigation would take place in line with standard processes. The ACMA said it was aware of the complaint and that if Fox News is dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response – or doesn’t receive a response within 60 days – the watchdog will assess the two episodes. Fox News could not be reached for comment before deadline.
Sources familiar with the letter’s contents said it raised similar issues to a legal threat sent to the ABC on August 22, before the first program went to air. It discusses concerns about anti-Fox News bias and the inability of the individuals’ interviewed – except for one – to have any insider knowledge about how the network covered the 2020 election.
It also claims that the ABC was provided with all relevant background information by Fox News, but it did not change the outcome of the story. Among its concerns is the absence of its arguments against the lawsuits it currently faces. Fox News previously rejected assertions it was responsible for riots that took place at the US Capitol on January 6, and claimed Four Corners ignored Mr Trump’s criticism of Fox News’ coverage of the election.
The letter argues the attack on Fox News is “indefensible” and a “gross distortion of truth”.
“The end result is television programming that violates fundamental tenets of the ABC’s charter and is not worthy of the trust that the people of Australia have placed on the ABC,” it said.
Fox News wants an external inquiry – in the same way the ABC recently recruited Chris Masters and Rod Tiffen to review the Ghost Train series – and wants it to be made public.