Rupert Murdoch will officially retire as chairman of media companies Fox Corp. and News Corp. in November, the latter of which owns The Wall Street Journal and New York Post.
Rupert Murdoch’s upbringing in media
Rupert Murdoch first gained practical experience in sensational journalism at the London Daily Express.
At 22 years old, Murdoch inherited his father’s newspapers, The Sunday Mail and the News. His father, Keith Murdoch, was also a journalist. The Australian War Memorial website states he was a political correspondent at the Sydney Sun in Australia.
Murdoch would turn the latter of those newspapers into tabloid-style news focusing on scandal-laden stories, according to the Express.
Which media companies did Murdoch purchase?
Rupert Murdoch had an immense amount of influence on the way news was presented from the purchase of a plethora of American media companies.
First, in 1973, he entered the American journalism business, purchasing two San Antonio, Texas, dailies.
He introduced The Star in 1974 and purchased the Boston Herald in 1982 and the Chicago Sun-Times in 1994, in addition to New York City’s Village Voice and New York Magazine.
Murdoch bought the New York Post in 1976. In 1985, he acquired 20th Century Fox, a Hollywood movie production company.
The studio was experiencing record-low profit margins as it was competing for its audiences, according to the New York Times. Murdoch’s purchase allowed the studio to pay off its debt and increase its production budget.
In the 1980’s and 90’s, he purchased multiple book-publishing companies such as the following:
- Harper and Row Publishers
- Scott, Foresman & Company.
In 1993, he purchased StarTV, a pan-Asian television service based in Hong Kong.
“… Mr. Murdoch has bought himself at least the potential of reaching two-thirds of the world’s population. And as a result, he is now close to creating the first truly global television empire.”
In 1996, Murdoch launched Fox News. It was the most watched network across all basic cable for the seventh straight year in 2022.
Then, in 2005, he bought Intermix Media, owner of MySpace. Intermix was a media site and a social network that has grown to more than 16 million users, according to the New York Times.
Murdoch’s conglomerate, News Corp., acquired The Wall Street Journal via Dow Jones & Company in 2007 for $5 billion.
Any more milestones for Murdoch?
“Murdoch sold most of Fox’s movie studio, FX, the National Geographic Networks and its stake in Star India to Disney for $71.3 billion in March 2019,” according to Forbes.
The reasons for this acquisition were to increase revenue, create a more extensive suite of movies, television shows and sports, according to BBC News.
In June 2013, News Corp split its print television and media holdings.
The Encyclopedia Britannica states: “Its print division was reconstituted as News Corporation (usually referred to as News Corp). Its television and media holdings became the much-larger and more-profitable conglomerate 21st Century Fox.”
Illegal and unethical behavior at UK-based News of the World caused a lawsuit to be filed against Murdoch’s media empire.
Articles from AP, CNN, Independent and PBS state how it started in 2005 when News of the World published an article on Prince William’s knee injury. Detectives investigated complaints, discovering the information originated from a hacked voicemail.
The people involved in the incident were arrested, but there was no evidence of phone hacking at the newspaper until a former journalist, Sean Hoare, spoke about it in 2010. Hoare iterated phone hacking as a common practice at the newspaper.
London’s police investigated the allegations and the newspaper apologized.
“On April 10, 2011, News of the World issued an official apology for hacking into voicemails between 2004 and 2006, pledging compensation to unidentified victims.”
On July 4, 2011, voicemails of a missing teenager, Milly Dower, were deleted by News of the World journalists, which led her parents to believe she was still alive.
Murdoch faced significant scrutiny and pledged full cooperation with investigations in the missing teenager incident while condemning the accusations and vowing to address the scandal.
The News of the World closed July 7, 2011, due in to these activities and arrests of highly profiled executives like Rebekkah Brooks, CEO of News International, and Andy Coulson, former editor of the paper.
Another controversial incident occurred at a Murdoch-run entity when “…the media mogul acknowledged that he knew former President Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election were false.” Murdoch didn’t stop Fox News hosts from spinning this narrative of voter fraud.
A $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit was filed against Fox News by voting machine supplier Dominion Voting Systems. This campaign was allegedly led by Murdoch’s son, Lachlan, and other prominent figures at Fox News to keep supporters of Donald Trump in the fold.
Dominion Voting Systems accused Fox News of propagating false accusations of voter fraud to manipulate the presidential election in favor of then-President Trump over Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Dominion argued Fox News used stories of rigged voting machines “to get viewers back”, while the cable news network countered it merely stated the allegations and “never reported those [allegations] to be true.”
Ultimately, the two parties settled for a $787.5 million payout by Fox, believed to be the largest media lawsuit settlement in U.S. history.
Legacy of Rupert Murdoch & Fox News
Murdoch’s son, Lachlan, now heads Fox Corp., which broadcasts cable news, business and sports networks. Murdoch’s reason for stepping down is to take on different roles as chairman emeritus.
His media empire has a conservative tilt riddled with right-wing propaganda. One such example is the media attack on U.S. gymnast Simone Biles when she took a break from the Olympics for mental health reasons.
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, criticized Fox News for “. . . demonizing people who should be celebrated . . .” like her. The Daily Beast confirmed this in 2021, citing Piers Morgan of Fox News, who called her mental health break “nonsense” and “a joke.”
This is not news, it’s agenda-driven propaganda. How is describing Simone Biles taking a mental health break as nonsensical considered newsworthy commentary?
Another example would be the praise of Donald Trump’s behavior by Fox News. Fox downplayed the severity of COVID-19 and the Trump administration’s failure to control the disease’s spread compared to CNN, according to an NBC News op-ed in April 2022.
It’s Fox News‘ framing of stories that has influenced America — a trend that continues today. Murdoch’s media empire appeals to a specific demographic of people in the U.S. who subscribe to conservative ideals that Republicans typically endorse. Their main competition is CNN and NBC News, whose left-wing biases appeal to a liberal audience.
Both media entities create public discourse in the U.S., which is necessary for an informed electorate to vote for legislators and government executives who can solve complicated issues. The key is to be open to new ideas that may differ from one’s own ideology, which is why the media needs to be more fluid in their framing of news and not attach a political agenda to them.
Featured image: Photo by David Shankbone via Flickr
Edited by: James Sutton