News net may lose license for alleged bias

LONDON — Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News network, which long before the Iraq war had been accused of a pro-President Bush stance in its coverage, is being investigated by U.K. TV watchdogs for alleged biased reporting.

Murdoch himself openly backed the war, but the unquestioning support of his Fox News channel, which airs in the U.K. on satcaster Sky Digital, has caused controversy and astounded British broadcasters, which are bound by law to maintain impartial and balanced news services.

A number of viewers as well as Julian Petley, chairman of the Campaign for Press & Broadcasting Freedom, have lodged complaints with the Independent Television Commission.

If the newscaster is found to have breached the ITC’s strict due-impartiality rules, the commission could force Sky off the air in the U.K.

Under European Union rules, any channel broadcasting in Britain must be licensed by a European regulator. Fox’s license is granted by the ITC because London is the broadcaster’s European base.

It’s not the first time a channel has been investigated for an alleged lack of impartiality. Med TV, targeting Kurdish viewers, had its license revoked after breaching the program code.

“The commission has set a precedent by revoking Med TV’s license, so I don’t see how it can’t have Fox taken off (Sky) as well,” Petley said. “I’m not in favor of censorship, but Murdoch would like to do with British television news what he has done with newspapers, which is to force people to compete on his own terms.”

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