Rupert Murdoch, the influential media tycoon, is making headlines once again as he announces his departure from the chairmanship of both Fox Corporation and News Corp. This marks the end of a remarkable 70-year career that started with him as the editor of a small Australian newspaper and culminated with his position as a driving force in global conservative media, notably through Fox News. His influence in U.S. politics, as a kingmaker, cannot be overstated.
In a memo addressed to Fox employees, the 92-year-old Murdoch revealed his plans to assume the role of chairman emeritus at both companies. His son, Lachlan, aged 52, will ascend to the position of sole chairman at News Corp while retaining his current roles as the executive chair and CEO of Fox Corporation.
Murdoch expressed his sentiments, saying, “For my entire professional life, I have been engaged daily with news and ideas, and that will not change. But the time is right for me to take on different roles, knowing that we have truly talented teams.“
As the leader of Fox and News Corporation, which oversees publications like The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post, Murdoch wielded considerable influence within the Republican Party, rivaled by only a select few.
His exit comes after a challenging period for the company, marked by the settlement of a defamation lawsuit by Fox News against Dominion Voting Systems, resulting in a staggering $787.5 million payout – the largest publicly disclosed monetary settlement in American defamation history. Additionally, the removal of popular opinion host Tucker Carlson led to a downturn in ratings.
Murdoch’s retirement coincides with a pivotal moment in the media industry. Established entertainment giants are grappling with the transformation of traditional television and film businesses, while consumers increasingly gravitate toward streaming services.
Stepping into his father’s shoes, Lachlan Murdoch, who already serves as the chief executive of Fox Corporation, is set to become the sole chairman of both companies. Rupert indicated that Lachlan will likely maintain the right-wing editorial stance for which Murdoch’s media companies are known. In his memo, Murdoch emphasized, “My father firmly believed in freedom, and Lachlan is absolutely committed to the cause. Self-serving bureaucracies are seeking to silence those who would question their provenance and purpose. Elites have open contempt for those who are not members of their rarefied class. Most of the media is in cahoots with those elites, peddling political narratives rather than pursuing the truth.”
The UK Saga
Murdoch’s media empire expanded beyond the U.S. borders. He launched the UK satellite pay-TV broadcaster Sky in 1989, later merging it with a major rival just a year later after a fierce price war. However, his UK ventures hit a roadblock two decades later due to the infamous hacking scandal at the News of the World. Murdoch had to shut down the Sunday tabloid, one of Britain’s oldest and best-selling newspapers, amid public outrage over allegations of illegal eavesdropping on murder and terror victims, politicians, and celebrities. This scandal thwarted his bid to take control of Sky.
The Rise and Shift of Fox News
Fox News, launched in 1996 as a conservative startup competitor to CNN, evolved over the years. It eventually became the top cable news channel in America, initially by catering to conservative narratives. However, as former President Donald Trump ascended to power in the Republican Party in 2015, the channel transformed into an unabashed home for right-wing propaganda, staunchly supporting the scandal-ridden White House.
In recent years, under Murdoch’s leadership, Fox News propagated baseless conspiracy theories, including doubts about the Covid-19 pandemic and the integrity of the 2020 presidential election. These false claims led to two massive defamation lawsuits from voting technology companies Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic. Earlier this year, Fox settled the Dominion lawsuit for a historic $787.5 million, but the Smartmatic lawsuit continues to navigate through the court system.
Rupert Murdoch’s decision to step down from his leadership positions at Fox Corporation and News Corp marks the end of an era in the media and political landscape. His legacy as a media magnate and political influencer is indisputable, and the future of these media giants under his son Lachlan’s leadership remains a topic of great interest.