Showing posts with label #DefamationCase. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #DefamationCase. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Fox News' $787.5M Settlement with Dominion: A Wake-Up Call for Media Accountability and the Future of Democracy.

"Dominion Voting Systems v. Fox News."
© 2008 Xrmap.

Jim Rutenberg and Katie Robertson of the New York report today that Fox News has reached a $787.5 million settlement with Dominion Voting Systems, avoiding a lengthy trial that would have seen its top executives and personalities face intense questioning over their role in spreading false claims about the 2020 election. The settlement, one of the largest defamation settlements in history, includes a rare admission by Fox News acknowledging that certain false claims about Dominion were aired on their network. However, the agreement did not require Fox to apologize for any wrongdoing in its programming, a point Dominion had been pushing for.

The settlement follows several pretrial findings by the presiding judge, Eric M. Davis, which cast Fox's programming in a negative light, significantly limiting its ability to argue that it was acting as a news network pursuing newsmaker claims. Dominion had collected substantial internal documentation from Fox, showing that many within the company knew the conspiracy theory about Dominion's election involvement was baseless. The settlement raises the question of whether Fox News will change its approach to handling defamatory conspiracy content in the future.

When I began writing online (blogging?) in 2012, the first significant post I made concerned the sale of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, The North Bay Business Journal, and the Petaluma Argus-Courier. While the sales price at the time was not disclosed, the value of the Press Democrat had dropped and related enterprises had, on the evidence, declined by over 90% since the purchase of the papers by the New York Times in 1985. That was consistent with the decline of the newspaper industry overall in recent times. I speculated then about the consequences of the collapse of the economics supporting newspapers and the possible impacts of the same. 

The experience since 2012 in America, and the decline of its papers, has been bigger news than I might have imagined. The end of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 allowed conservative voices like Rush Limbaugh to dominate talk radio, as broadcasters no longer needed to present balanced viewpoints. The culture that developed in that context has since spread into newspapers and cable TV news. This change contributed to the polarization of political discourse in the United States and helped shape the nation's political landscape. 

Rather than merely be conservative, the Dominion case suggests that, over time, the lack of balance has led to Richard Hofstadter's "Paranoid Style" of American politics rising to the fore. A political culture founded on falsehoods, deceit, or misinformation can undermine trust in democratic institutions, erode the credibility of political leaders, and ultimately sap the stability and effectiveness of the political system as a whole. This has severe consequences for the functioning of a democratic society, leading to increased polarization, ineffective decision-making, and weakened accountability.

The decline in the economics supporting newspapers, the end of the Fairness Doctrine, and the subsequent rise of polarizing voices have significantly impacted the American political landscape. The Fox News settlement with Dominion Voting Systems highlights how unbalanced reporting and conspiracy theories have permeated mainstream media, eroding trust in democratic institutions and increasing political polarization. As we move forward, it is essential to address the challenges posed by this shifting media environment and work towards fostering a political culture that values accuracy, integrity, and balanced perspectives, to ensure the continued stability and effectiveness of our democratic system.