Rupert Murdoch is stepping down. What does that mean for Fox fans?
Murdoch’s son, Lachlan Murdoch, will assume control of Fox and News Corp. in mid-November, but his father will continue to offer advice
Rupert Murdoch, once described as “the man who owns the news,” is handing off operations of Fox and News Corp. to his son, Lachlan, the company said Thursday in a news release.
The elder Murdoch, who is 92, will become chairman emeritus of the companies he built into a global empire while changing the nature of cable news and, some say, the political landscape itself.
The change will be effective mid-November, the company said.
What will this transition mean for viewers of Fox News, which remains the leader in cable news despite fallout from its split with Tucker Carlson earlier this year?
Not much, at least in the short term. By all accounts, the father and this particular son are ideologically aligned — in fact, some say Lachlan Murdoch is more conservative than his father.
Why is Rupert Murdoch stepping down?
In the news release and on the show “America’s Newsroom,” Fox described the coming change as a transition, one apparently designed by Rupert Murdoch himself.
On “America’s Newsroom,” hosts Bill Hemmer and Dana Perino traded their favorite Rupert Murdoch stories and said they could personally attest to the “robust health” that Murdoch said he is in.
“Rupert Murdoch created all of this and so much more across America and the globe. His life’s work has left an indelible imprint on the global media landscape; his contributions are both innumerable and extraordinary, and we thank him for letting us be a part of it all,” Hemmer said, to which Perino added, “Without him, we would not be here.”
When Fox News debuted in 1996, it was an upstart network competing against CNN and another new contender in cable news, MSNBC. On paper, the rivalry, such as it was, didn’t last long.
Fox has been a leader in ratings for much of the past two decades, confirming the belief of Rupert Murdoch and the late Roger Ailes that there was an appetite for TV news without a liberal tint. Fox was to be “fair and balanced,” a motto that later evolved to “Most watched, most trusted” and “Standing up for what’s right.”
The Murdoch media dynasty
Although Murdoch’s media holdings are vast and include properties in the U.K. and his native Australia, the success of Fox — and the controversy it generated — made it synonymous with him.
But as Murdoch made clear in his Thursday memo, he is part of a familial legacy that began with his father, Keith Murdoch, a newspaper reporter who went on to own a Melbourne-based media group he would leave to his son.
Keith Murdoch — Rupert Murdoch’s grandfather — had been a Presbyterian minister who had wanted his son to follow him into the ministry. But as The Guardian reported, Keith Murdoch believed “the press was where he could serve his most ‘useful’ purpose,” and Rupert Murdoch followed in the path — as did Lachlan, his oldest son, who has held various positions at News Corp. and 21st Century Fox.
Though much has been written about family drama over who would take Murdoch’s place (Murdoch has six children, and an entire fictional TV series has been loosely built around the story), Lachlan Murdoch does seem to share his father’s ideological bent — so much so that some liberals are hyperventilating over the idea of Lachlan Murdoch being in control.
Media Matters for America, a left-leaning nonprofit that mostly serves to criticize Fox, on Thursday issued a statement that said, in part, “The world is worse off because of Rupert Murdoch. No one should sugarcoat the damage he caused. Making matters worse, his parting act — handing the reins to Lachlan Murdoch — is akin to tossing a match onto the kindling he stacked.”
But Rupert Murdoch called his son a “passionate, principled leader” who will carry on the vision of his father and grandfather. Saying “the battle for the freedom of speech and ultimately the freedom of thought has never been more intense,” Murdoch wrote, “My father firmly believed in freedom and Lachlan is absolutely committed to the cause.”
In his memo, published in full on the website Insider, Rupert Murdoch sounded notes that are familiar to Fox News viewers, saying, “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 future of Fox News
As for the direction of Fox and the rest of the Murdoch media properties, it appears that while Lachlan Murdoch will be officially in the driver’s seat, his father will still be providing direction.
In his statement, Lachlan Murdoch said his father would “continue to provide valued counsel” to both Fox and News Corps.
And Rupert Murdoch said in his memo to employees, “I will be watching our broadcasts with a critical eye, reading our newspapers and websites and books with much interest, and reaching out to you with thoughts, ideas, and advice. When I visit your countries and companies, you can expect to see me in the office late on a Friday afternoon.”
Stock of News Corp., which owns The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post, among other publications, were up Thursday morning, as well as shares of Fox. Not everyone is so bullish about the future of Fox, post-Rupert Murdoch, however.
Next week will bring the publication of a new book called “The Fall: The End of Fox News and the Murdoch Dynasty.” It’s written by Michael Wolff, who wrote the 2008 book about Murdoch called “The Man Who Owns the News.”