- By Peter Hoskins and Michelle Fleury
- BBC news
In a last-minute settlement, Fox News settled a defamation lawsuit from voting machine company Dominion over its coverage of the 2020 US election.
The network, controlled by media mogul Rupert Murdoch and his family, has agreed to pay Dominion $787.5 million (£634 million).
Despite the large payout, it means Fox avoids what some consider the defamation trial of the century.
However, the network faces a second similar lawsuit from another election technology company, Smartmatic.
The settlement means Fox and Dominion can now settle the case behind their backs with both companies able to claim victory.
David Logan, a law professor at Roger Williams University, told the BBC: “The reality is that the two big companies in this case are, by nature, risk-averse. And any time you have a jury, That’s risky.”
At nearly $800 million, it was one of the largest financial payments ever in a defamation case.
“It’s obviously a significant number and we shouldn’t ignore it. I mean, it’s a really huge number,” said Angelo Carusone, president of left-wing media watchdog Media. Matters for America, told the BBC.
However, it is less than half of the $1.6 billion that Dominion originally sought.
“However, this number is not large enough to really change the behavior of Fox News,” added Mr. Carusone.
To put the payout into context, parent company Fox Corporation reported net income of $1.23 billion for the last fiscal year.
It is also stockpiling large amounts of cash — about $4 billion, according to recent company filings.
Rupert Murdoch and his family – who control the News Corp media empire that includes Fox News, The Times of London and The Wall Street Journal – are estimated to be worth $17.6 billion, according to Forbes magazine. .
The deal also saves Fox executives, including Mr. Murdoch, and some of the network’s hosts from having to testify in one of the most famous defamation trials in history.
Professor Logan said: “Fox will have to deal with another round of embarrassing revelations.
The company’s legal team may also have considered the potential financial costs if the case went ahead and Dominion won.
However, Fox will not be able to fully address the issues with its reporting on the 2020 presidential election.
It still faces a second similar defamation lawsuit from another election technology company, Smartmatic, which is demanding $2.7 billion.
For Dominion, the $787.5 million payout to Fox could be just the start.
It still has prominent cases against Fox’s smaller rivals Newsmax and OAN along with several associates of former President Donald Trump.
Additional reporting by Monica Miller