FBN Covers California Ballot Initiative News Corp. Lobbying to Defeat

By Alex Weprin Comment

At news organizations, the “boots on the ground” reporters and producers are often not up to speed on what is happening in their parent company’s boardrooms. While that is not unusual for employees in America, it can get awkward when you are supposed to be an objective voice, covering the news.

That is the situation some at Fox Business Network find themselves, covering California ballot initiative 24, which would repeal corporate tax breaks to try and balance the state’s massive budget deficit.

FBN is covering the ballot initiative as part of what it calls its “War on Business,” meanwhile, executives at parent company News Corp. are donating funds in an attempt to defeat the measure, as the New York Times reports.

News Corp. is not alone. The parent companies of ABC News, NBC News, CBS News and CNN are also some of 24’s most vocal opponents.

Local stations in California, including those owned by CBS and NBC, have covered the proposition without disclosing their corporate contributions. But no news outlet has covered the issue as aggressively as Fox Business, the three-year-old sibling of Fox News.

Kevin Magee, an executive vice president at Fox Business, said in an interview on Friday, “We didn’t know that News Corporation had made a contribution to No for 24.” He said such disclosures were normal “if you know it and if it’s germane to the story.” He said that had he known in this case, he thought the network would have disclosed the donation.

It is not reasonable to expect every employee to know every cause that the company they work for donates to. But for employees of news organizations, with credibility at stake, perhaps special efforts should be made. Or at the very least, clear disclosures.

Related: Why Fox News Should Help Fund NPR