Fox and Big Lie wins ABC support again

Fox and Big Lie wins ABC support again

The ABC has again shown its support of Sarah Ferguson’s investigation of Fox News coverage of the 2020 US election by running an updated version of Fox and the Big Lie in response to Fox’s billion-dollar defamation settlement.

Sarah Fergusen in front of the cover screen for the program

Settled on the planned opening day of the defamation trial, Fox agreed to pay Dominion $US787.5 million ($1.17 billion) and admitted to making “false" claims about the involvement of the company’s ballot-counting machines in the 2020 US election.

"We acknowledge the court's rulings finding certain claims about Dominion to be false," Fox said in a statement after the settlement was announced.

Read the ABC’s coverage here.

In the immediate aftermath of the settlement news, the ABC announced it would be running an “edited and updated” version of its controversial Four Corners program on 24 April. 

In an accompanying statement, the ABC said that the new version would present the “complete story”, given that “Fox will no longer be scrutinised through a trial”.

Fox campaign against original program

Fox and News Corporation reacted critically to Fox and the Big Lie when it was aired in its original two-part form in August 2021 and laid complaints with the ABC and, when dissatisfied with the ABC’s internal complaints handling process dismissing its criticisms, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

Late last year, the ACMA found that the program breached the ABC’s editorial code in relation to accuracy and fair dealing requirements, but not its impartiality standards.

Read the ACMA report.

In response, the ABC released a statement saying it was concerned that ACMA’s interpretation of its Code of Practice would have “negative consequences for the future production of strong public interest journalism”.

ABC Director of News, Justin Stevens, said that the program was a “strong and measured piece of public interest journalism and a world class report by Sarah Ferguson and the team”.

“It is important the public does not lose faith in the democratic process of free and fair elections and journalism like this plays a key part in that. This was an outstanding two-part documentary, and we stand by the journalism in the program.”

ABC Alumni Chair, Jonathan Holmes wrote to ACMA Chair, Nerida O’Loughlin, to say that the ACMA report and accompanying media release had “needlessly damaged the reputation of Australia’s most important television current affairs program”.

"Regulators such as the ACMA are not precluded from making judgments that are critical of even the most reputable practitioners of investigative journalism. But that needs to be balanced against requirements to understand normal journalistic conventions and to respect legitimate editorial decisions," he wrote.

The original two-part program remains available through ABC IView.

Sophie Arnold is the editor of ABC Friends' monthly email newletter