Fox News networks repeatedly fail to disclose Paul Ryan’s board membership in news coverage

Former House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) joined the Fox Corporation’s Board of Directors after he retired from Congress in 2019.

Yet, both Fox News and Fox Business have failed to disclose that relationship on several occasions in recent news coverage that involves Ryan, according to Breitbart.

It is a generally common practice among media organizations to publicly disclose such relationships and potential conflicts of interest when reporting on or about a member of corporate governance.

Ryan holds substantial control over Fox networks

Breitbart noted that in addition to serving as a member of the Board of the Fox Corporation, Ryan also serves as chair of the Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee of the Board.

That committee helps establish “broad corporate policies” and “sets the strategic direction” for the corporation and all of its sub-entities, per the Statement of Corporate Governance.

The statement further notes that the Board “is committed to acting with the utmost integrity,” which would seemingly include being transparent with the public about any relationships or potential conflicts of interest when a board member is included or mentioned in a news report.

Multiple failures of public disclosure

This apparent failure of the two Fox networks to disclose Ryan’s membership on the corporate board has come up in the context of Ryan’s criticisms of former President Donald Trump, Breitbart reported.

Within the past two months, Fox News has published at least three articles — here, here, and here — that shared Ryan’s views on politics and Trump but failed to also disclose Ryan’s influential leadership position over the network.

Tellingly, all three of those articles were negative with regard to Trump, in line with the majority of the network’s coverage of the former president, which has prompted some critics to whether Ryan’s personal political views on Trump have become part and parcel with the “strategic direction” that Ryan helps set for the network.

Over on Fox Business, Breitbart noted that there have been at least four separate occasions in just the past few weeks that host Stuart Varney has shared Ryan’s negative outlook toward Trump with viewers without also disclosing his board membership, though he has on other occasions made such disclosures in the past.

Relationship should be publicly disclosed at all times

To be sure, Paul Ryan has every right to serve on the board of the Fox Corporation and to hold and publicly express negative opinions about the former president.

That said, given his level of control and influence over the two cable news networks, that should be fully disclosed in any reporting by those networks that include him for the sake of transparency and to guard against the appearance of impropriety or a conflict of interest.