Rupert Murdoch heads one of the world's largest media empires, the News Corporation, which during FY2013 had nearly $8.5 billion in revenue from a diverse range of media products, including Fox News and numerous other press outlets in the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom.
Murdoch is notorious for blatantly using his media holdings to try to impact policy decisions in numerous countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom. After the 9/11 attacks, for instance, Murdoch was widely considered to have pressed many of his news outlets to promote a pro-war line that echoed efforts by both President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair's to push for the invasion of Iraq.
More recently, Murdoch capitalized on Fox-sponsored Republican Party presidential debates to promote specific candidates for the 2016 Republican nomination. After Fox Business Network aired a debate in November 2015, Murdoch sent out tweets promoting Marco Rubio, who Murdoch argued was the "best of all," and lambasting Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, who "talked nonsense."
Relations with Neoconservatives
Considered a close ally of neoconservative activists, Murdoch has helped bankroll neoconservatism's more important media outlets, including the William Kristol-edited Weekly Standard, the Wall Street Journal's editorial page, and Fox News. A sign of Murdoch's commitment to this hawkish "pro-Israel" faction's causes was his willingness to support the Standard in spite of yearly losses in the millions. The magazine is widely credited as having been a pivotal force in building support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. According to a report by Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, "With a circulation of about 65,000 and annual losses estimated from $1 million … to $5 million … the Standard represented only a tiny fraction of Murdoch's vast media empire."
In June 2009, Murdoch sold the Standard to Clarity Media, a Denver-based company run by another conservative media mogul, Philip Anschutz. The New York Times reported that the magazine was sold for about $1 million, "according to an executive close to Mr. Murdoch who spoke anonymously because the terms of the deal were meant to be confidential." According to a News Corp. executive interviewed by the Times, Murdoch decided to sell the magazine to ''someone even more enthusiastic about perpetuating that voice.''
Murdoch is frequently criticized for using his media empire to advance his neoconservative-aligned political agenda. During the lead up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, for example, the editors of Murdoch's media holdings vociferously supported President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair's pro-war campaign. One British newspaper opined: "You have got to admit that Rupert Murdoch is one canny press tycoon because he has an unerring ability to choose editors across the world who think just like him. How else can we explain the extraordinary unity of thought in his newspaper empire about the need to make war on Iraq? After an exhaustive survey of the highest-selling and most influential papers across the world owned by Murdoch's News Corporation, it is clear that all are singing from the same hymn sheet. Some are bellicose baritone soloists who relish the fight. Some prefer a less strident, if more subtle, role in the chorus. But none, whether fortissimo or pianissimo, has dared to croon the antiwar tune. Their master's voice has never been questioned."
According to commentator David Kirkpatrick, Murdoch's personal involvement in editorial issues helped ensure that almost all of his news outlets remained very closely aligned to "Mr. Murdoch's own stridently hawkish political views, making his voice among the loudest in the Anglophone world in the international debate over the American-led war with Iraq."
Gene Kimmelman of the Consumers Union told the New York Times, "[Murdoch] has extended the most blatant editorializing in the entire world through his media properties, and that is exactly the example of what we need to worry about when any one entrepreneur owns and controls too many media outlets."
Fox News, which eclipsed CNN in 2002 as the top-rated cable news network in the United States, has frequently been singled out for criticism because of its blatantly one-sided coverage of political issues—from its campaign to support the invasion of Iraq to its efforts to discredit the Barack Obama White House. When CNN reporter Christiane Amanpour blamed Fox for creating "a climate of fear and self-censorship" regarding Iraq coverage, a Fox spokeswoman shot back, "Given the choice, it's better to be viewed as a foot soldier for Bush than a spokeswoman for al-Qaida."
Similarly, when advisers to President Obama began criticizing Fox for failing to uphold high journalistic standards in its coverage of the administration, Fox senior executive Michael Clemente charged the White House with conflating the network's commentary with its news coverage, which Clemente said was "like Fox News blaming the White House senior staff for the Washington Redskins' losing record."
Some observers see Murdoch as more closely attracted to power and opportunism than ideology. Tim Arango of the New York Times writes, "Mr. Murdoch's politics have often proved more malleable and less dogmatic than his critics have portrayed. He has been pragmatic in aligning himself, and his company, with power, rather than ideology. He supported Tony Blair in Britain, and in 2006, his New York Post endorsed Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Senate. Mr. Murdoch even hosted a fundraiser for Mrs. Clinton. And shortly after the election of Barack Obama as president, the Post fawned over him in its pages."
More recently, commentators have drawn comparisons between Murdoch and other pro-Israel rightwing figures like the controversial casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who owns numerous media outlets in Israel and the United States. Adelson's secretive purchase of a Las Vegas newspaper in 2015 and his subsequent efforts to directly impact some editorial decisions of the paper spurred MoveOn.org to circulate a petition under the title, "Don't let Sheldon Adelson become the next Rupert Murdoch."
News Corp Scandals
Beginning in 2006 and peaking in 2011, a series of scandals erupted in which News Corp and Murdoch were embroiled in allegations that the company attempted to access voicemail records of "hundreds of celebrities and government officials," murdered British girls, and 9/11 victims. British police arrested numerous top executives, including Rebekah Brooks, the former editor of News International, and the head of Scotland Yard resigned over the handling of the affair. Sources also claim that News of the World journalists solicited a private detective to hack into the voicemails of 9/11 victims.
Murdoch's son James, the heir apparent to News Corp, was accused of having given "mistaken" testimony to a British parliamentary investigation. The younger Murdoch testified that he was unaware of the phone hacking allegations, but two former News Corp executives eventually came forward, saying that Murdoch had indeed knowledge of the illegal activities.
The numerous scandals plaguing News Corp helped spur the splitting up of the company into two separate entities in 2013. The Economist reported in 2013: "On Friday June 28th Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation will split in two. Most of its television and film assets will be scooped up into a new company, 21st Century Fox. Around 130 newspapers (including the Wall Street Journal and the Times of London), educational businesses and other assets will be left to form a new company with the old name of News Corp." The Economist noted that "A break-up makes particular sense for News Corp, however, which has spent the past two years grappling with a scandal relating to allegations of phone-hacking and police bribery at the News of the World, a British newspaper that News Corp shut down in 2011. Separating the 'good co' (as analysts are calling 21st Century Fox) from the newspaper business (dubbed "crap co") insulates the profitable television divisions from the repercussions of the scandal, which has cost News Corp $389m in legal and other costs so far. The split may also allow 21st Century Fox to renew its bid for the 61% of BSkyB."