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Dominion Sues Fox News, Claiming Defamation in Election Coverage

Fox News and its powerful owner, Rupert Murdoch, are facing a second major defamation suit over the network’s coverage of the 2020 presidential election, a new front in the growing legal battle over media disinformation and its consequences.

In the latest aftershock of Donald J. Trump’s attempt to undermine President Biden’s victory, Dominion Voting Systems, an election technology company that was at the center of a baseless pro-Trump conspiracy about rigged voting machines, sued Fox News on Friday for advancing lies that devastated its reputation and business.

Dominion, which has requested a jury trial, is seeking at least $1.6 billion in damages. The lawsuit comes less than two months after Smartmatic, another election tech company, filed a $2.7 billion lawsuit against Mr. Murdoch’s Fox Corporation and named the Fox anchors Maria Bartiromo, Lou Dobbs and Jeanine Pirro as defendants.

In a 139-page complaint filed in Delaware Superior Court, Dominion portrayed Fox as an active player in spreading falsehoods that the company had altered vote counts and manipulated its machines to benefit Mr. Biden in the election.

Mr. Giuliani and Ms. Powell for defamation. The company also sued Mike Lindell, the chief executive of MyPillow and a Trump ally who was also a frequent guest on Fox and other conservative media outlets. Each of those suits seeks damages of more than $1 billion.

“The truth matters,” Dominion’s lawyers wrote in Friday’s complaint against Fox. “Lies have consequences. Fox sold a false story of election fraud in order to serve its own commercial purposes, severely injuring Dominion in the process. If this case does not rise to the level of defamation by a broadcaster, then nothing does.”

In a statement on Friday, Fox said that its 2020 election coverage “stands in the highest tradition of American journalism” and pledged to “vigorously defend against this baseless lawsuit in court.”

Dominion’s filing on Friday represented what its lawyers called a new phase in its battle against its detractors, and Thomas A. Clare, part of the company’s legal team, said it was unlikely to be the last lawsuit filed. His firm, Clare Locke, has in recent weeks joined with the firm Susman Godfrey, which is known for taking cases to trial.

filed a motion to dismiss the Smartmatic lawsuit, arguing that the false claims of electoral fraud made on its channels were part of covering a fast-breaking story of significant public interest. “An attempt by a sitting president to challenge the result of an election is objectively newsworthy,” Fox wrote in the motion.

The narrative that Mr. Trump and his allies spun about Dominion was among the more baroque creations of a monthslong effort to cast doubt on the 2020 election results and convince Americans that Mr. Biden’s victory was not legitimate.

Dominion, founded in 2002, is one of the largest manufacturers of voting machine equipment in the United States; its equipment was used by election authorities in more than two dozen states last year, including several states carried by Mr. Trump.

Allies of Mr. Trump falsely portrayed Dominion as biased toward Mr. Biden and argued, without evidence, that it was tied to Hugo Chávez, the long-dead Venezuelan dictator. John Poulos, Dominion’s founder, and other employees received harassing and threatening messages from people convinced that the company had undermined the election results, according to the complaint.

Fox News and Fox Business programs were among the mass-media venues where Mr. Trump’s supporters denounced Dominion. The lawsuit also cites examples of Fox hosts, including Ms. Bartiromo and Ms. Dobbs, uncritically repeating or vouching for false claims made by Mr. Giuliani and Ms. Powell.

“Fox took a small flame and turned it into a forest fire,” Dominion wrote in the lawsuit. “As the dominant media company among those viewers dissatisfied with the election results, Fox gave these fictions a prominence they otherwise would never have achieved.”

faced a reckoning of sorts from the threat of defamation litigation, a relatively novel tactic in a battle against disinformation that had previously been limited to ad boycotts and liberal public pressure campaigns.

In February, two days after Smartmatic filed its suit, Fox Business canceled “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” its highest-rated program. Newsmax, a pro-Trump cable channel also facing potential legal action, cut off Mr. Lindell when he repeated falsehoods about rigged voting machines.

Taken together, Dominion and Smartmatic are demanding at least $4.3 billion in damages from Fox. Controlled by Mr. Murdoch, 90, and his elder son, Lachlan, the Fox Corporation reported that it had made $3 billion in pretax profit from September 2019 to September 2020, on revenue of $12.3 billion.

the network’s early projection that Mr. Biden would carry Arizona.

Dominion also makes the case that Fox and its hosts benefited from uncritically repeating these baseless claims. The suit cites a postelection rise in ratings for anchors like Ms. Bartiromo and Ms. Dobbs, and notes that the ex-husband of Ms. Pirro, who spoke on-air of a stolen election, later secured a pardon from Mr. Trump.

“Fox has had a problem because a lot of its pundits have said the very things that have led Dominion to bring this lawsuit,” the First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams said in an interview.

In its response to the Smartmatic suit, Fox argued that its reporting on the election should be viewed in its totality — pointing out that at least one host, Tucker Carlson, voiced skepticism about Ms. Powell’s statements — and that claims by the president’s lawyers in an election dispute were inherently newsworthy. “This lawsuit strikes at the heart of the news media’s First Amendment mission to inform on matters of public concern,” Fox wrote in that motion.

Mr. Zick, the First Amendment lawyer, said that Dominion had included an implicit response to that argument: “This isn’t neutral reportage. It’s disinformation for profit.”

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Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper empire buys a financial tip sheet.

Rupert Murdoch is a buyer again. News Corp, his newspaper empire, acquired Investor’s Business Daily, a financial tip sheet popular with Wall Street traders and investors, for $275 million.

The deal signals a return to acquisitions after Mr. Murdoch spent the last few years slimming down and selling off parts of his businesses.

Little-known among everyday readers, Investor’s Business Daily has been a stalwart source of news for hard-core investors for decades. The stockbroker William J. O’Neil started the publication in 1984, and it was originally meant to compete with The Wall Street Journal (now a part of Mr. Murdoch’s empire). But it has remained an insider’s guide with limited appeal beyond the trading floor.

Investor’s Business Daily has turned into a largely digital publication. It has a website and several mobile apps in addition to its weekly print edition. It has a mix of free content along with data tools that cost hundreds of dollars a year as part of a subscription. The company has “nearly 100,000” online subscribers and is a growing and profitable business, according to News Corp.

New York Post recently hit a rare milestone, becoming a profitable paper for the first time in recent memory.

News Corp has still had to make steep cuts across its newspaper empire, especially in Australia, Mr. Murdoch’s original home base. Staff at his Australian papers have been gutted and most of the operations have been turned into digital-only publications.

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Facebook and News Corp Strike Pay Deal for Australian Content

MELBOURNE, Australia — Facebook has agreed to pay Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp for its journalism content in Australia, a month after the social media platform temporarily blocked news links inside the country over legislation pressing digital giants to compensate publishers.

The multiyear deal, announced on Tuesday, includes news content from major Murdoch conservative media outlets like The Australian, a national newspaper, and the news site news.com.au, as well as other metropolitan, regional and community publications.

It comes a month after Google unveiled its own three-year global agreement with News Corp to pay for the publisher’s news content, and after Facebook backed down, under heavy criticism, from its drastic step of blocking the sharing or viewing of news links in Australia.

Few details, including how much Facebook will pay News Corp for content, were released.

In a statement on Tuesday, Robert Thomson, chief executive of News Corp, said the agreement, which he called a “landmark,” would “have a material and meaningful impact on our Australian news businesses.”

said of the draft Australian legislation, “The proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content.”

While the Australian government has pointed to the consolidation of digital ad spending in companies like Google and Facebook, the tech giants say that they benefit news companies by driving traffic to their sites.

Facebook has also announced preliminary pay deals with independent news organizations including Private Media, Schwartz Media and Solstice Media. But so far, it has cemented agreements only with News Corp and Seven West Media, another major conservative news company.

Sky News Australia, also owned by Mr. Murdoch, extended an existing agreement with Facebook.

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Piers Morgan Can’t Wait to Bring the Worst of America Home

The opportunity for a new era in British television begins in the studios of LBC, a radio station that has tested, and effectively stretched, the British legal requirements that broadcast news be “balanced.” Instead of offering down-the-middle recitations of news developments, the network serves up clashing and sometimes strident debates over issues. The station thrived during the long run-up to Brexit, making clear to broadcasters that they could abandon their starchy customs and reflect more partisan passions — as long as the stations didn’t embrace just one political side.

Now, television is poised to fill the space that LBC opened. The most ambitious player in this new arena may be Andrew Neil, a Scot who transformed The Sunday Times for Mr. Murdoch in the 1980s before emerging as one of the BBC’s most formidable interviewers. He’s a conservative, but his style shares almost nothing with his right-wing American counterparts, who alternate between tossing coddling questions to Republican politicians and obliterating obscure liberals who have foolishly wandered onto their sets. Mr. Neil is an equal opportunity interrogator, and may be best known in the United States for a hoisting in 2019 of the conservative figure Ben Shapiro. In the 2019 British election, the Tory prime minister Boris Johnson refused to submit to an interview with him.

Credit…David M. Benett/Getty Images

I reached Mr. Neil at his home in the French Riviera, where he has been weathering the pandemic and preparing the start of a new 24-hour cable channel network, GB News, this spring. When I called, he was watching “MSNBC Live with Craig Melvin.” “I think there are things to learn from it in terms of programming, and the visuals are very strong,” he said of the left-leaning American channel. “In terms of formatting and style, I think MSNBC and Fox are the two templates we’re following.”

Mr. Neil has raised 60 million pounds (about $83 million) to start the channel, including investments from the American giant Discovery and the hedge fund manager Paul Marshall. (Mr. Marshall’s son, unrelatedly, is taking time off from playing banjo in the band Mumford and Sons to “examine my blind spots” after praising a far right book on Twitter.) Mr. Neil said he expected that sum to last the network at least three years, though it’s a pittance by the standards of American cable news.

He said he planned to hire some 100 journalists, a fraction of the more than 2,000 at the BBC, but aimed to capture the resentment of the London-centric media by having many of them broadcast from their hometowns in the north. The channel will rely on other news services for its breaking news, he said, and focus its resources on producing American-style, personality-driven news shows. But he said he wouldn’t follow the American right into outlandish conspiracy theories, and he has denounced Donald Trump’s claim that he won the U.S. election.

“I don’t think there’s an appetite in Britain for ridiculous conflict,” Mr. Neil said. Still, he plans to carry a segment on his own prime-time show called “woke watch” in which he can mock what he sees as progressive excesses. He cited as an example a recent report that British nurses were told they could use the word “chestfeeding” rather than “breastfeeding” to be inclusive of transgender people.

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