The media conglomerate, controlled by the Murdoch family, disclosed in a filing Monday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that it had paid out $50 million in its recently completed fiscal 2017 due to “settlements of claims arising out of allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination at the Company’s Fox News Channel business.” In May, the company had revealed it paid out $10 million in the first three months of the year for those matters, and in June revealed the total to be $45 million.
The disclosure shows the toll the corporate culture that had been in place at the cable network before the ouster last year of former chief Roger Ailes continues to have on the parent company, which also owns Fox Broadcasting, the FX cable network, the 20th Century Fox movie studio and a portion of the Hulu video-streaming service. While Fox said in its filing that it does not expect the total amount of costs related to settlements to be material, it did list legal matters related to Fox News as a “risk factor” in its operations, noting that executives have ” received regulatory and investigative inquiries and stockholder demands to inspect the books and records of the Company which could lead to future litigation.” The company also noted that its “primetime lineup has significantly changed which could have a negative impact on our ratings.”
Fox News has been under scrutiny since Ailes departed under a cloud, accused of sexual harassment by former anchor Gretchen Carlson and a number of other current and former employees. Ailes, who passed away earlier this year, denied the allegations. Since that time, however, Fox News has been beset with a growing number of lawsuits and charges of various kinds of improprieties. Bill O’Reilly, its best known primetime anchor, left the network in April, and Bill Shine, its co-president, left a few weeks later. Two hosts, Charles Payne and Eric Bolling, have been suspended pending investigations into recent allegations of sexual harassment, charges which both of the men have denied.
21st Century Fox has installed several new senior female executives at Fox News Channel and reworked the company’s human-resources department. What’s more, the network continues to investigate allegations in an eyebrow-raising legal complaint alleging Fox News worked with the White House to disseminate fake news about the death of murdered former Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich, making claims in a now-retracted online article that Rich was linked to a leak of DNC emails to Wikileaks.
The continuing charges erupt at a sensitive time for the parent company. Fox remains keen to snap up the 61% of the British satellite-broadcaster Sky it does not already own. 21st Century Fox reached a deal late last year to buy the remaining Sky stake for $15.2 billion – a pact that would give Fox enormous global heft. As AT&T prepares to acquire Time Warner and as Fox continues to negotiate with giant distributors like Comcast and Charter Communications, bringing Sky into the company would add new leverage, while its European news operations could lend new programming advantages to Fox News.
The legal settlements would not included money paid out to Ailes and O’Reilly when they departed. Ailes was believed to have received a payout totaling $40 million, while O’Reilly was believed to have received $25 million.