When Media Matters first highlighted reports that Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. -- the parent company of outlets like Fox News, Wall Street Journal and New York Post -- had given a $1 million contribution to the Republican Governors' Association, we noted the possible motivation behind the massive contribution:
According to the [Bloomberg] article, News Corp. is actually the RGA's "biggest corporate donor." Bloomberg suggests that News Corp. has made these donations due to their opposition to "proposed federal rule changes that would weaken the position of its Fox network in negotiations with cable companies," stating that "Governors may have a stake in the issue."
Over on Newser.com's Off The Grid blog, Michael Wolff has even more to say about the possible motivation. He writes (emphasis added):
The notable thing about Rupert Murdoch donating a million bucks to the Republican Governors Association is not that he's risking general censure and opprobrium with this donation, but that he's donating money at all. Murdoch hates the idea of giving away money for nothing. The simple public relations idea of courting goodwill by donating an infinitesimal part of your wealth to a charity of your choice is anathema to Murdoch. He thinks the rich guys who do it are phonies. He's always irritated with his 102-year-old mother for supporting Australian charities—in this regard he rather thinks she's a phony.
Just say a little bird told me … the money doesn't come from Rupert.
The company is claiming the donation has nothing to do with its news side, going so far as to audaciously say, "There is a strict wall between business and editorial." The "corporate side" made the donation, News Corp.'s hapless spokesman insists. But the central advocate for giving the dough has been none other than Fox Chief Roger Ailes. In the past, Ailes has been stymied or neutralized in his quest to have the company put its corporate money where its mouth is, because the No. 2 in the company until last summer, Peter Chernin, was a Democrat.
With Chernin gone, and with Fox News outperforming most other parts of the company, Ailes is the central voice. What's more, Chernin's sidekick, corporate PR-guy Gary Ginsberg, who could be counted on to use the threat of bad press to keep Murdoch from giving in to Ailes' none-too-politic schemes and demands, is also gone—purged, in part, by Ailes.
Newsbusters' attempts to explain away Fox News parent News Corp's $1 million contribution to the GOP would be funny if they weren't so pathetic.
Earlier this week, Tim Graham offered the utterly inane defense that "Democrats are having a fit over the RGA donation, even if the overall donation levels are about even." By "overall donation levels are about even," Graham was referring to the fact that, according to the Washington Post, prior to the $1 million contribution, "the News Corp./Fox political action committee had given 54 percent of its donations to Democrats and 46 percent to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics … News Corp. also gave $45,000 each to GOP and Democratic campaign committees on Capitol Hill."
Now, that 54/46 split obscures the dollar amounts in question, which is roughly $78,000 to Democrats and $66,500 to Republicans. Add in the $45,000 each to the GOP and Democratic campaign committees and we're talking about $123,000 to Democrats and $111,500 to Republicans -- which is, indeed, "about even." But wait! We can't just ignore that $1 million contribution in assessing "overall donation levels." It is, after all, an actual contribution of actual money that can be spent on actual political activities. When you add it to the mix, Fox has given the GOP about $1.1 million, and Democrats about $123,000 -- that's nearly ten times as much to the GOP. And yet Graham claimed that "overall donation levels are about even"! That's just incredibly false. In doing so, he conveniently omitted any mention of the actual dollar amounts referred to by the 54/46 split, which would have given away his little ruse. That's just incredibly dishonest.
Comedian Jon Stewart on Wednesday bashed Fox News for parent company News Corporation's $1 million donation to the Republican Governors Association.
Unfortunately, Stewart failed to inform his viewers that Viacom, the parent company of Comedy Central, has so far given disproportionately to Democrats this year.
according to Open Secrets, Viacom's Political Action Committee has so far this year contributed 62 percent of its money to Democrats and only 38 percent to Republicans
In 2008, this ratio was 58 percent Democrats, 42 percent Republicans
Sheppard stopped there, not telling readers what the numbers were for 2006, or 2004, or 2002, or 2000, or 1998. Call me a cynic, but I suspect that's because Viacom gave more than 60 percent of its PAC contributions to Republicans in 2006 and 2004, and a majority to Republicans in 2002 and 1998 (Viacom's PAC contributions were split between the parties 50/50 in 2000.)
See, PAC contributions tend to flow to the party in power, as corporate PACs tend to give money to incumbents. Given that, Viacom's contribution pattern isn't particularly noteworthy. Not to mention the fact that Sheppard has a problem of scale that he isn't addressing: According to the data Sheppard cited, Viacom's PAC has given a total of $176,700 to politicians of both parties this year, so that 62/38 split in favor of the Democrats results in about a $42,000 advantage. Now, remember, Fox/News Corp have given about one million dollars more to the GOP than the Dems this cycle. So responding by pointing to the $42,000 advantage Democrats have in Viacom contributions is pretty silly. Maybe that's why Sheppard used percentages rather than raw numbers? Nah, he wouldn't be that dishonest … would he?
Sheppard then repeats Graham's absurd argument:
Beyond this, as NewsBusters reported hours before Stewart made his comments, prior to this $1 million donation, News Corp. had actually given 54 percent of its donations to Democrats and 46 percent to Republicans.
Yes, it's true: if you don't count News Corp's $1 million contribution to the GOP, it has given Democrats slightly more than it has given Republicans! And if you don't count everything Noel Sheppard has ever written, he rarely makes a fool of himself in public.
UPDATE: Graham has appended a correction to his post, acknowledging: "Adding $1 million to the GOP side shows a more dramatic tilt to the GOP than my faulty original assumption."
Last night on MSNBC's Ed Show, Democratic Governors' Association executive director Nathan Daschle discussed the $1 million donation given to the Republican Governors' Association by News Corp. -- Fox News' parent company -- saying the right-wing network was, "literally the mouthpiece of the Republican Party." He also discussed his numerous failed attempts to appear on the outlet and discuss the issue:
Now Daschle is calling on Fox News to display a disclaimer whenever it discusses governors or 2010 gubernatorial races. As Politico's Ben Smith notes:
Democratic Governors Association Executive Director Nathan Daschle writes Fox News chief Roger Ailes with a challenge:
In the interest of some fairness and balance, I request that you add a formal disclaimer to your news coverage any time any of your programs cover governors or gubernatorial races between now and Election Day. I suggest that the disclaimer say: "News Corp., parent company of Fox News, provided $1 million to defeat Democratic governors in November." If you do not add a disclaimer, I request that you and your staff members on the "fair and balanced" side of the network demand that the contribution be returned.
From the August 17 edition of Comedy Central's Colbert Report:
We already know that News Corp.'s $1 million contribution to the Republican Governors Association all but confirms that Fox News is little more than the media arm of the Republican Party. But it turns out that the donation may violate company policy as well.
The News Corp. website has posted the company's "Standards of Business Conduct." Under the section "Dealing With Government Officials," it states (emphasis added):
No payment shall be made to, or for the benefit of, any public official in order to induce or entice such official to: enact, defeat or violate any law or regulation for the Company's benefit; influence any official act; or obtain any favorable action by a governmental agency or official on behalf of the Company.
Social amenities, entertainment and other courtesies may be extended to government officials or employees only to the extent appropriate and reasonable under applicable laws and customs. Gifts of greater than nominal value to, or lavish entertainment of, public officials are prohibited. No gifts in the form of cash, stock or other similar consideration shall be given, regardless of amount. Any gift about which an employee is uncertain should not be made without the prior written approval of the Company's General Counsel. Any expenses incurred by a Company employee in connection with the matters discussed herein shall be accurately recorded on the Company's books and records.
Further, Dow Jones, the Wall Street Journal parent that News Corp. acquired a couple years back, has a similar policy stating that "Dow Jones does not contribute, directly or indirectly, to political campaigns or to political parties or groups seeking to raise money for political campaigns or parties, and Dow Jones does not and will not reimburse any employee for any political contribution made by an employee.
News Corp. stated that its reason for donating to the RGA was that "the RGA's pro-business agenda supports our priorities at this most critical time for our economy." Bloomberg pointed out that one possible motivation for the donation is possible state influence on "proposed federal rule changes that would weaken the position of its Fox network in negotiations with cable companies."
It appears that News Corp.'s donation goes against the spirit, if not the letter, of its own prohibitions against such contributions.
(h/t Think Progress)
In May, I noted that Rupert Murdoch's Times Online and Sun Online were clamping down on traffic stats in advance of putting up a paywall.
In retrospect the move appears to have been adept, especially when you consider the post-paywall traffic decline of more than 1.2 million readers from the two papers.
MediaWeek's Sarah Shearman reports:
In May, the free-to-access website Timesonline.co.uk attracted 2.79 million unique users in the UK, a slight increase on the level of the previous three months.
News International launched its separate Thetimes.co.uk and Thesundaytimes.co.uk websites on 25 May. It made registration compulsory and began redirecting users from the old site on 15 June and started charging for access to both sites on 2 July.
According to ComScore, the combined number of unique visitors to the two new sites has fallen to 1.61 milion in July, from 2.22 million in June, and 2.79 million in May.
The average number of minutes each user spent on the site was 7.6 in May, 5.8 in June and 4 in July.
Page views have dropped from 29 million in May to 20 million in June and 9 million in July.
News International has run an introductory offer offering subscribers 30 days' access for £1. Its basic pricing is £1 for a day's access to The Times and The Sunday Times and £2 for a week, while subscribers to each newspaper get free access to the related website.
No indications have yet emerged from the company as to how many people have subscribed or how much revenue subscriptions have generated.
The figures relating to dwell time and page impressions on the site suggest the actual number of subscribers is much lower than the 1.6 million recorded by ComScore, with many people accessing the homepage and then moving on, adding to the overall unique users but drastically reducing average time spent on site.
On October 30, 2008, Fox News' Bill O'Reilly went off on one of his trademark tirades about the media, complaining that they're all irredeemably liberal and biased, and the only hope for the free press in America was "Fair and Balanced" Fox News. Of particularly note was O'Reilly's scathing attack on General Electric, the parent company of NBC and one of O'Reilly's favorite punching bags, for "using its money and power to benefit a presidential candidate. That is a gross violation of the spirit of the constitutional powers given to a free press."
As O'Reilly put it, General Electric allegedly sided with Barack Obama so "they could lure millions of Obama supporters and make money."
Fast forward to today, and we find out that News Corp., the parent company of Bill O'Reilly's Fox News, has donated $1 million to the Republican Governors Association, an openly partisan outfit that helps to elect Republican gubernatorial candidates through campaign coordination and independent advertising. According to Politico's Ben Smith, a News Corp. spokesman said that the company "believes in the power of free markets, and the RGA's pro-business agenda supports our priorities at this most critical time for our economy."
Here we have News Corp., to borrow O'Reilly's words, "using its money and power to benefit" several Republican candidates for statewide office. And unlike General Electric, whose alleged support, according to O'Reilly, came in the form of biased news coverage, News Corp. has made a direct cash contribution to this Republican outfit.
So when can we expect O'Reilly's denunciation of News Corp.'s "gross violation of the spirit of the constitutional powers given to a free press"?
Bloomberg News reports today (h/t Daily Kos' KingOneEye) that News Corp. -- the media giant which owns Fox News and The Wall Street Journal -- has donated $1 million to the Republican Governors Association, the GOP organization that helps coordinate Republican gubernatorial campaigns and pays for independent ads in support of their candidates.
Media Matters has confirmed Bloomberg's report using publicly available IRS filings. We also found no evidence of corresponding donations to the Democratic Governors Association in the current political cycle. News Corp. wants Republicans elected to office, and they're willing to spend money to make it happen.
According to the article, News Corp. is actually the RGA's "biggest corporate donor." Bloomberg suggests that News Corp. has made these donations due to their opposition to "proposed federal rule changes that would weaken the position of its Fox network in negotiations with cable companies," stating that "Governors may have a stake in the issue."
Whether or not that is the case, this large corporate donation to the GOP underscores News Corp.'s role as an appendage of the Republican Party.
UPDATE: Politico's Ben Smith has received the following quote from a News Corp. spokesman: "News Corporation believes in the power of free markets, and the RGA's pro-business agenda supports our priorities at this most critical time for our economy." They're not trying to hide it anymore. As the coverage of its media outlets indicates, News Corp. supports the Republican Party's platform. It's just now started putting its money where its mouth has long been.
Coming soon to your iPad or mobile device, Rupert Murdoch's News Corps brings you the news in what is being billed as a "new national digital newspaper to be distributed exclusively as paid content."
The new digital paper will be produced under the roof of Murdoch's New York Post so it is sure to tug News Corps' right-wing party line.
The Los Angeles Times Dawn C. Chmielewski reports:
News Corp. Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch is embarking on an ambitious plan for a new national digital newspaper to be distributed exclusively as paid content for tablet computers such as Apple Inc.'s iPad and mobile phones.
The initiative, which would directly compete with the New York Times, USA Today and other national publications, is the latest attempt by a major media organization to harness sexy new devices to reach readers who increasingly consume their news on the go. The development underscores how the iPad is transforming the reading habits of consumers much like the iPod changed how people listen to music.
"We'll have young people reading newspapers," the 79-year-old Murdoch said during the company's Aug. 4 earnings call. "It's a real game changer in the presentation of news."
Unlike News Corp.'s business-centric Wall Street Journal, the new digital newspaper would target a more general readership, offering short, snappy stories that could be digested quickly. The newsroom would operate under the auspices of Murdoch's New York Post and be overseen by its managing editor, Jesse Angelo. News Corp. has yet to set a launch date, although people familiar with the matter said the news organization would like it to debut by year's end.
Although it would draw the reporting resources of the Post and Dow Jones, Murdoch could potentially invest millions of dollars to staff the operation and charge a yet-to-be determined subscription fee. One person familiar with the plan said News Corp. envisions a staff of several dozen reporters and editors and that the budget has not yet been determined.
Claire Cain Miller and Brian Stelter have a must read piece in the New York Times about net neutrality in which they note the palpable silence from media companies like Comcast and Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.
Barry Diller -- "who oversees Expedia, Ticketmaster, Match.com and other sites" – comes out swinging in the Times story against a proposed compromise by Google and Verizon calling the deal a "sham."
More on that proposed deal can be found at Free Press.
As Media Matters has noted:
Right-wing media have falsely claimed that the Net neutrality principle supported by the Obama administration is an attempt by the government to control Internet content. In fact, net neutrality does not mean government control of content on the Internet; rather, net neutrality ensures equal and open access for consumers and producers of content and applications, and is supported by a wide array of groups including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Christian Coalition of America.
Perhaps no one in the national media has done more to muddy the issue of net neutrality than Glenn Beck, a News Crop employee:
More from the NYT after the jump.
How long will it be until News Corps honcho Rupert Murdoch goes after those using the word "My" because of MySpace or Disney because its animated classic The Fox And The Hound has the word "Fox" in its title?
The Telegraph's Rupert Neate reports that Murdoch's BSkyB "has been ensconced in a legal battle with Skype for more than five years" because "because customer[s] might assume that 'Skype' is part of Sky."
A spokesman for Sky, which is 39.1pc-owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, said the company was trying to prevent Skype from using its trademark in relation to the sale of TV or internet service, because customer might assume that 'Skype' is part of Sky.
"Sky is involved in a long-running dispute with Skype in relation to several trade mark applications filed by Skype, including, but not limited to, television-related goods and services," the spokesman said. "The key contention in the dispute is that the brands 'Sky' and 'Skype' will be considered confusingly similar by members of the public."
Sky said it has taken legal action against a string of companies for attempting to piggyback on the "Sky" brand.
Back in April, I wrote about News Corp and Fox News' love/hate relationship with the LGBT community:
It's no secret that Fox News doesn't live up to its "fair and balanced" slogan, especially when one considers its coverage of the LGBT community. In fact, much of its coverage is openly antagonistic and downright homophobic. On issue after issue of importance, the network, its hosts, anchors, contributors, and guests offer up lies, misinformation, and right-wing spin that only further stigmatizes the gay and lesbian community.
A review of Fox News' employment practices however, reveals a network at odds with its own homophobic public image.
According to an examination of the Human Rights Campaign's (HRC) employer database, News Corp. (Fox News' parent company) has had a policy protecting employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation since at least 2005 and has offered health care benefits to same-sex partners since at least 1999. Time Warner (CNN's parent company) and General Electric (NBC/MSNBC's parent company) offer not only these basic protections to gay and lesbian employees, they appear to go even further.
The HRC's Corporate Equality Index rates Time Warner and General Electric with 100 percent and 80 percent, respectively, while News Corp. has yet to complete the survey that HRC uses to establish its index. News Corp. would give us a better understanding of how it treats LGBT employees on a variety of other important issues by completing the survey, but the media company does deserve credit for at least offering some very basic protections and benefits for gay and lesbian employees.
Lack of a Corporate Equality Index rating notwithstanding, News Corp. has taken its support for LGBT employees a step further by sponsoring the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) which describes itself on its website as "an organization of journalists, media professionals, educators and students working from within the news industry to foster fair and accurate coverage of LGBT issues." In fact, the program from the organization's annual conference last fall in Montréal included an ad from News Corp. stating: "The networks of Fox News honor NLGJA for its commitment to fair and balanced reporting. From your friends at Fox News Channel, Fox Business, News Corporation."
That ultimately is what's truly sad about News Corp.'s relationship with its LGBT "friends." The media company gives its employees decent protections and benefits while making the lives of the very same employees more difficult in the long-run by broadcasting homophobia and misinformation that harden anti-LGBT views and slow the movement for full equality under the law.
Evidence of this love/hate relationship couldn't be clearer of late, especially for those watching the right-wing network in the days following Judge Vaughn Walker's ruling that California's Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.
As Media Matters noted this week:
What must the LGBT employees at News Corp and Fox News think of their employer's attacks on the landmark, detailed, 136 page ruling?
To be fair, you may be looking for the "love" part of the "love/hate" relationship in this particular story. It should be noted that Margaret Hoover -- a Fox News contributor and the great-granddaughter of President Herbert Hoover – is on the advisory board of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, which spearheaded the legal challenge against Proposition 8 leading to this decision.
Read the entire ruling after the jump.
According to an article in the New York Post, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp (which owns the Post) is considering a "bid for the bankrupt Texas Rangers."
How cool would it be to see the Rangers playing at MySpace Field? A kid can dream can't he?
The Post's Josh Kosman reports:
Bidding for the suddenly resurgent baseball franchise will begin at $307 million, but a winning bid may be $100 million higher -- or more.
It could not be learned if News Corp., whose Fox Sports Southwest unit owns television rights to the team, would bid independently or as part of a group.
News Corp. may add its name to the list of wannabe owners of the suddenly competitive Texas Rangers baseball team.
There are several other potential bidders, including a group led by Hall of Famer and Rangers team president Nolan Ryan and a group led by Mark Cuban, the owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks.
It wouldn't be Murdoch's first foray into athletics. I highlighted the following report from The Independent in May:
Rugby club Melbourne Storm, which is owned by Murdoch's News Limited, has been at the centre of a major scandal, after players were found to have been receiving secret payments to stay at the club. This contravenes Australia's strict salary cap rules, and Murdoch has been fined a A$500,000. How many more fines can a magnate afford?
As a result of the scandal, the Storm was stripped of its "2007 and 2009 championship titles" as well as "three minor titles from 2006-08."
UPDATE: Accoring to another Post report, "News Corp. announced Tuesday it will not be submitting a bid for the Texas Rangers."
The National's Ben Flanagan reports that "Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud plans to launch a 24-hour Arabic-language news channel in partnership with Rupert Murdoch's Fox network, and has recruited the controversial Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi to head the station."
Something tells me Murdoch won't be importing the anti-Muslim/Islam hysteria found almost daily on Fox News stateside to this new venture.
The Daily Show's Jon Stewart did a send-up of Fox News' anti-Muslim tendencies earlier this week:
You can find a great deal more here about the right-wing network's history of making controversial assertions about Muslims -- often by baselessly branding them as "terrorists" or "terrorist sympathizers" -- calling for profiling, or equating Islam and all of its adherents with radical extremists who claim to act in its name.
David Kaplan of paidContent reported Friday that Rupert Murdoch's News Corp is selling Beliefnet to BN media:
Beliefnet, the multi-faith-based news and discussion site, has laid off a "great number" of staffers today in advance of News Corp.'s sale of the company to BN Media, paidContent has learned. An announcement is expected this afternoon. Representatives from News Corp (NSDQ: NWS). and Beliefnet did not return calls seeking comment.
Last May, AllThingsD reported that News Corp., which acquired the site in 2007, was shopping it around. Back in October, Steve Waldman, who cofounded the site in 1999 and stayed as president and editor-in-chief after the sale, left the company to take a post with the FCC. The exact number of the Beliefnet staffers being let go wasn't clear, nor was the sale price. We will update when we have more details.
This news follows reports last week News Corp owned MySpace's co-president resigned. Charles Cooper of the CBS News TechTalk blog wrote last week:
In April 2009, former Facebook exec Owen Van Natta was hired to replace MySpace's founding CEO Chris DeWolfe. Then last February, MySpace canned Van Natta and promoted insiders Mike Jones and Jason Hirschhorn to co-presidents. Now, Hirschorn is making his exit from the company, leaving Jones to carry the ball as a solo act.
We've repeatedly noted that Murdoch is a mess when it comes to the internets. Perhaps he should just stick to propping up unprofitable newspapers and political television programming disguised as cable news.