Media mogul Rupert Murdoch bows out - GulfToday

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch bows out


Rupert Murdoch

At the age of 92, Australia-born media tycoon Rupert Murdoch stepped down as chairman of News Corp and Fox Corp, one a media network that spread across Australia, Asia and United Kingdom, and the other a leading American television news network. He has also other business interests including the ownership of the prestigious Wall Street Journal in New York. He owns The Times, where he had the celebrated confrontation with then editor Harold Evans and declared his intention to dictate to editors, and Sky News the television network, apart from tabloids like The Sun and The News of the World. He has been an aggressive media empire builder starting out from his father’s newspaper in Australia. And he had violated all media norms and ethics to expand his empire and increase its revenues. Controversy is indeed his middle name. He was not content to be the big media owner. He wanted to shape politics and exert influence. And he did that ruthlessly in Britain in the 1990s when he used The Sun, which was a jingoistic outlet, to support Tony Blair and his New Labour. And it is conceded that this support had benefited Blair’s electoral fortunes in 1997 and after. In Sky News he tried to build a television network based on the model of pure revenue-generator, and tried the pay-per-view of football matches. It succeeded for a while but it petered out. But the scandal of hacking at News Of The World was the final blow to his amoral approach to news -- which included misinformation about a kidnapped child who was killed -- when he was hauled up before the courts and the paper had to close down.

He had better luck in America, where he became a citizen after 11 years in 1985, and built Fox News into a no-holds-barred rightwing channel. And when Donald Trump was losing the election in 2020, the channel distorted the news of polling companies to show that he was winning when he was not. Fox News had pay hundreds of millions of dollars in damaged to one of the companies, and it is facing a case with another worth more than a billion dollars in damages. Apparently, Murdoch himself became disillusioned with the more-than-enthusiastic Trump partisans in the channel. And when he acquired The Wall Street Journal, the prestigious, sober, family-owned newspaper, he had promised that he would respect the sanctity of the newsroom and would not interfere in the editorial matters. But it did not take him too long to break his own promise.

Murdoch did not hesitate to do business with communist China, and he was willing to prune the Star World news channel to be acceptable to the Chinese authorities. And in the 1990s India, he saw that English language channel and programming covered a minuscule part of the large population, and he started channels in many of the Indian languages, and he opened the way for other players to enter the Indian television space. He is part of the globalisation of television channels of the 1990s. Though he is wilful enough to have his own way, there are times when he had to defer to the wishes of the shareholders. He wanted to combine the News Corp and Fox News Corp and make it into a giant single entity and head it. But the shareholders opposed it on sound commercial grounds saying that the revenue models for each was different and their merger would not make business sense. So he left it at that. He has not yet said quits to his businesses. He is now the chairman emeritus in the two companies as his son Lachlan Murdoch takes over from him.

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