By Sigurd Neubauer
Rupert Murdoch, 92, announced last week that he will retire in November from his two flagship companies, the Fox Corporation and the News Corporation, but will become chairman emeritus of both. His son, Lachlan Murdoch, 52, will take over.
Following a seven-decade career, the Australian-born tycoon has influenced politics in his native country, Britain, and the United States through his ever-expanding conservative media empire, which includes major assets in real-estate, sports, and entertainment. It all began in 1952 when Murdoch inherited a newspaper in Adelaide, Australia, from his father, Keith Murdoch who had been a founding member of the Australian Journalists Association.
In the United States, Murdoch’s Fox News Channel has played a pivotal role in influencing Republican politics ever since its inception in 1996. With the expansion of liberal politics since the 1960s and onwards – which have largely transformed American life from academia to mainstream media, big government, civil society, and as of late big business – Fox News has played a critical role in preserving the country’s equilibrium between its coastal elites and the conservative heartland.
While Fox News continues to be routinely criticized by its left-wing competitors for its mixture of news coverage with opinion programming, and even entertainment, many of them – especially CNN and MSNBC– have adopted the very same approach.
Fox News continues to outperform its rivals, according to Nielsen Media Research for August 2023. The more legal problems former U.S. President Donald Trump has, the more MSNBC’s ratings grow, Nielsen reveals. These trends – of course – continue to fuel America’s polarization. During the Trump presidency, from January 2017 through January 2021, Fox News enjoyed outsized political influence as the President was known for consistently watching its programming. This, of course, turbo-charged Murdoch’s influence over the political agenda of the day. During the same period, CNN – which is known for its anti-Trump coverage – maintained robust ratings throughout the controversial presidency because of how the network covered him. In May of this year, the network hosted a ‘town hall’ event with the former President drawing 3.3 million viewers. CNN became the most-watched cable news network of the evening, according to Nielsen.
Newsweek’s Batya Ungar-Sargon has written an important book on the news media and polarization. We’ve reviewed her book and interviewed her about it.
Murdoch, meanwhile, has not only succeeded with setting the agenda for the conservative network, but some of the very same ‘celebrity journalists’ that he has carefully curated over years – such as Bill O’Reilly, Megyn Kelly, and Tucker Carlson – he ended up dismissing for a variety of reasons. Neither O’Reilly nor Kelly have succeeded with sustaining their celebrity statuses following their dismissals while it is too early to assess Carlson’s success on X (formerly Twitter). Murdoch’s political genius also lies in his ability to fend off constant conservative media challengers to his Fox News media empire.
But Murdoch’s political reach within the United States extends well beyond Fox News. With his 2007 acquisition of the Dow Jones & Company, The Wall Street Journal’s parent company, Murdoch acquired America’s most prestigious newspaper: the WSJ.
The WSJ stands out as the only major American newspaper where there is a clear separation between its news division and its opinion pages. Its competitors, The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times, – which are all on the Left – make little attempt to separate their news coverage from their opinion pages. This sets the WSJ apart, which is why it is America’s best – and most prestigious newspaper – even if one disagrees with its editorial pages. The WSJ’s ability to remain above the fray, coupled with its conservative editorial pages, is what sets it apart as it is simply better than the rest.
Murdoch is the most consequential media tycoon of our time. He should be lauded for his ability to provide a balance to American life– which is needed for a healthy democracy – as parts of the country have been marching Left since the 1960s and onwards. We wish him the very best in retirement.
Murdoch is the most consequential media tycoon of our time
Murdoch’s political genius lies in his ability to fend off constant conservative media challengers to his Fox News media empire