Murdoch’s world: The Last of the Old Media Empires’ by David Folkenflik gives us a look at Rupert Murdoch from the time his father died to the middle of 2013. Rupert Murdoch was 21 when his father died and he inherited a small regional Newspaper in Adelaide, Australia. He continued to buy other media properties over the next few years in both Australia and New Zealand slowly putting together the media empire that would be know as News Corp. His big move came in 1969 when he purchased two tabloid newspapers, News of the World and the Sun in Great Briton. Other media acquisitions followed. He quickly became a power broker in British politics. In 1974 he made the move to the United States. He purchased a few small newspapers and in 1976 purchased the tabloid the New York Post but wanted more so he renounced he Australian citizenship and became a United States citizens so he could purchase TV stations. He was able to get waivers from regulators so he could own both TV stations and Newspapers in the same market. In the mid 80s he purchased 20th Century Fox and the six TV stations owned by Metromedia. This would become the foundation of the FOX broadcasting system.
Rupert Murdoch is at heart a tabloid journalist. This is reflected in FOX News but it is in Briton where this almost brought his empire down. The News of the World and to a lesser extent the Sun had become criminal enterprises. In 2005 it came to light that New of the World reporters had been hacking the cell phones of the Royals and other celebrities. A some what sorry police investigation determined this was not a common practice. The hacking scandal really came to a head in 2011 when it was revealed the phone of murdered school girl Milly Dower had been hacked. Hundreds of other hacks became public knowledge in the following weeks and months as well as payoffs to police officers. Rupert Murdoch and his son James were called before Parliament twice to explain and resulted in News of the World being shut down. This came at a really bad time as Murdoch was attempting to get permission to buy all of satellite provider BSkyB. Murdoch was forced to withdraw the request. In addition many of Murdoch’s most trusted lieutenants were forced to resign and some even went to prison.
Folkenflik spends three chapters on the hacking scandal and has a chapter on the election night 2012 meltdown on FOX news which are well worth the read. Another interesting factoid is that Rupert Murdoch is a believer in global climate change but is more concerned about the bottom line and he knows what his viewers want to hear. The book concludes in mid 2013 and Rupert Murdoch is alone, estranged from his family, divorced from his third wife and his mother is dead. In addition the survival of his empire is not a sure thing.
I highly recommend this book.