On the heels of its latest quarterly report showing a doubling profits, News Corp. is still reeling from the fallout from the phone hacking scandal as six former News of the World journalists were arrested on February 13 for allegedly intercepting voice mails. Two of those arrested are still employed at News Corp.
According to a February 13 Bloomberg article:
News Corp.'s phone-hacking scandal is widening after London police arrested six more former journalists at its now-defunct News of the World tabloid and uncovered a new conspiracy to intercept voice mail.
Three men and three women suspected of hacking phone messages in 2005 and 2006 were arrested today and some homes are being searched, the Metropolitan Police Service said in a statement. Two of the people arrested currently work at News Corp.'s other U.K. tabloid, the Sun, Britain's best-selling daily title.
News Corp. has settled about 200 civil phone-hacking lawsuits. It faces as many as 100 more as police continue to notify victims, lawyers said at a London court hearing last week.
At least 55 journalists have been arrested in the last two years in connection with the phone hacking investigation.
These arrests, the latest in a long string of arrests and charges for News Corp. employees, are a reminder that the media conglomerate is far from free of its ethical challenges. According to Bloomberg, lawyer Mark Lewis said, "It comes as no surprise that the lines of investigation are widening ... There is a lot further to go, and ultimately this is a problem that will continue to have reverberations at the top of News Corp."
The ongoing investigation hasn't stopped CEO Rupert Murdoch from exploring new business ventures or racking up billions in profits. News Corp. reported net profits of $2.4 billion in the last three months of 2012, mostly related to gains from cable TV and new channel acquisitions, effectively doubling its profits from the same period in 2011.
News Corp. has paid more than $340 million in costs related to the phone hacking scandal.
Last year, News Corp. announced plans to split the company into separate publishing and entertainment divisions. On a quarterly earnings call February 6, News Corp. executives said the planned separation was on track "to be completed in approximately one year from the date of announcement."
The Wall Street Journal published an editorial defending the latest report by StudentsFirst, an education reform group run by former Washington, D.C., schools superintendent Michelle Rhee, and failed to disclose the education interests of its parent company, News Corp., and its reported financial link to the advocacy organization.
In an editorial titled, "Where Failure Is a Virtue," the Journal is critical of Richard Zeiger, California's chief deputy superintendent, for making light of his state's "F" grade on the StudentsFirst report and calling it a "badge of honor." StudentsFirst ranked and graded each state's education policy on categories such as "value effective teachers" and "empower parents with information." California was one of 11 states to receive an "F." From the editorial:
Mr. Zeiger claimed to be elated by the failure. He called StudentsFirst "an organization that frankly makes its living by asserting that schools are failing," adding to the New York Times that "I would have been surprised if we had got anything else."
Mr. Zeiger is a factotum of the teachers unions that dominate California politics, so he naturally dislikes StudentsFirst because it advocates evaluating teachers based in part on student performance on standardized tests. Ms. Rhee and her reform group also want teacher evaluations to be made available to parents, among other policies to improve accountability. Unions don't like accountability.
In coming to Rhee's defense, the Journal failed to disclose links between News Corp. and the education reform industry. CEO Rupert Murdoch, who has expanded his media empire to include a digital education company, has reportedly donated to StudentsFirst. According to journalist Steve Brill's book Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America's Schools, Rhee "had gathered more than $100 million in donations or pledges from heavy hitters such as ... Rupert Murdoch." Fox News' Neil Cavuto has similarly reported that Murdoch is a StudentsFirst donor. Murdoch has also publicly supported Rhee in her advocacy efforts, reportedly calling her "a bona fide reformer."
In a New York magazine post, Gabriel Sherman pointed out that while Fox News resisted calls to discuss gun policy in the wake of the shooting at Newtown, Connecticut, Rupert Murdoch, the head of Fox's parent company, News Corp., was expressing support for more restrictive gun laws. Sherman noted that the difference between Fox's pro-gun history and Murdoch's call for action on gun control "highlights the growing chasm between Rupert Murdoch and [Fox News CEO Roger] Ailes":
Certainly Fox's decision to avoid widespread policy talk could be seen as an editorial impulse to keep the focus trained on the tragedy's human dimension. But Fox's coverage also highlights the growing chasm between Rupert Murdoch and Ailes. Gun culture is alive and well at Fox News. Roger Ailes and Sean Hannity are reportedly licensed to carry concealed handguns in New York City. Fox personality Eric Bolling is a vocal Second Amendment proponent on air. "Not only do they carry guns, they don't allow an honest debate on TV," a Fox News insider said. In the past, when Ailes has clashed with Murdoch on politics, Fox News's outsize profits have helped Ailes prevail. Earlier this fall, Ailes signed a new four-year contract, and he retains complete editorial control over the network.
A Fox News spokesperson declined to comment on Ailes's Second Amendment views.
While Ailes's network said it wasn't the right time to talk about legislation, Murdoch had no hesitation. Within hours of the attack, he took to Twitter to call for an automatic-weapons ban. "Terrible news today. When will politicians find courage to ban automatic weapons? As in Oz after similar tragedy," he wrote, referring to Australia's move to ban assault weapons in 1996 after a man used two semiautomatic rifles to kill 35 people and wound 21. That massacre came six weeks after the horrific mass school shooting in Dunblane, Scotland, in which sixteen children and one adult were murdered. (Despite Murdoch's plea, automatic weapons are already illegal in the United States; Adam Lanza used semiautomatics.)
Sherman further reported that the lack of gun policy coverage on Fox stemmed from an order from David Clark, executive vice president of Fox's weekend coverage, who reportedly instructed producers to avoid the subject. According to Sherman's sources within Fox, the decision not to address gun policy "created a rift inside the network."
Fox has a history of top-down orders to affect how news is reported on the network. Fox News Washington managing editor Bill Sammon has attempted to slant Fox's coverage on everything from climate change to health care reform and influenced Fox's coverage of President Obama's 2009 Cairo speech on America's relationship to the Muslim world.
Two recent gun tragedies produced instant reaction within the world of Fox News. The fact that they were diametrically opposed suggests an internal conflict may be looming. Either that, or Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch has no idea what's being broadcast on his all-news channel in America.
In the wake of the Newtown, CT school massacre, the News Corp. chairman used his Twitter account to belittle politicians for their inaction on the issue of gun control and demanded to know when they will "find [the] courage to ban automatic weapons."
On Saturday, Murdoch took a swipe at the president: "Nice words from POTUS on shooting tragedy, but how about some bold leadership action?"
The irony here is that if Murdoch didn't own Fox News, Fox News hosts would denounce him for trying to "politicize" the Newtown shooting. That's what Murdoch's team did two weeks ago after NBC sportscaster Bob Costas spoke for 60 seconds during the halftime of an NFL game and addressed America's "gun culture" in the wake of Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher killing his girlfriend and then driving to the local football stadium and shooting himself in front of his coach.
The morning after his comments, Fox targeted Costas for a full-on barrage of criticism, denouncing him for having the audacity to broach the topic of gun violence. Costas was "kind of a coward" in the way he made his comments, which were possibly fueled by his own "political ambitions," according to Fox.
The message from Fox to Costas was unmistakable: Sit down and shut up about guns. But now, as Newtown prepares to bury 26 victims, Murdoch's lashing out at "politicians" and the "POTUS" for failing to lead on gun reform?
By going on Twitter and demanding Obama take action while Murdoch's highest profile property in the United States actively tries to silence debate about gun reform, the media baron either revealed himself to be a hypocrite of historic proportions, or clueless about Fox News' content. It's content that seems specifically designed to interfere with any attempt to have a rational conversation about guns. (Just ask Costas.)
Note to Murdoch: By all measures, your cable channel operates as an appendage to the National Rifle Association. Fox News has done more in the last four years to embrace and echo the NRA's paranoid, anti-Obama gun fantasies than any other national media outlet in America, such as Bill O'Reilly calling gun control advocates "totalitarians," Glenn Beck warning about a looming "ban on guns," and Dick Morris feeding right-wing fears about "back-door gun control" in America.
Here's a test of leadership for Rupert Murdoch: If you're truly concerned about gun violence in your adopted home country, then you should demand Fox News stop demonizing gun reform and stop championing fanatical, pro-gun paranoia.
If Murdoch wants to lead on the topic of gun reform, he has the media tools to do so. The question is, does he really care about America's crisis at hand?
Fox News is deep in an ethics quagmire following a Washington Post report that the network's CEO Roger Ailes used Fox News analyst K.T. McFarland to try to recruit Gen. David Petraeus to run for the president as a Republican. While Ailes and McFarland made their secret overtures, McFarland appeared on Fox's airwaves to praise Petraeus as "one of the greatest generals in American history."
According to The Washington Post's Bob Woodward, Ailes had McFarland advise Petraeus that he "should turn down an expected offer from President Obama to become CIA director" and instead hold out for the chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and to resign and run for president if he was not offered that post. In audio of the meeting obtained by Woodward, Petraeus also said to McFarland that he had been advised that Ailes might resign as Fox News chief and act as a Petraeus aide should the general run for president. He also said that Ailes might bankroll the campaign, although he added that maybe it was News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch who had made that offer.
Woodward also reported that Ailes has acknowledged that he did ask McFarland to make the pitch: "It was more of a joke, a wiseass way I have." Ailes also called McFarland "way out of line" in some of her comments.
This would be an ethical problem by itself: Ailes -- the chief of a supposedly objective news network -- was advising an active general who was commanding U.S. troops in the middle of a war to make demands of the president, and if those demands were not met, to run for president with Ailes acting as his aide.
But the ethics problem is much worse than that. McFarland appeared on Fox's airwaves soon after meeting with Petraeus to praise him as "one of the greatest generals in American history" who will save us from defeat in Afghanistan. While McFarland was putting Petraeus on at least the same level as Ulysses S. Grant, George Washington, Andrew Jackson, and Dwight Eisenhower, she provided no disclosure of her and Ailes' advice that Petraeus should consider running for president.
From the April 21, 2011, edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
McFARLAND: When I was there two years ago, Jenna, I looked around and I concluded this is hopeless. Now with General Petraeus, who is one of the greatest generals in American history, he has gone in and he has devised a plan that will work. And the question is not, will it work, but the question is, should we be doing this? Is this an objective, is this a mission that we want? And as you have pointed out, it's expensive. And are we at this point -- you know, where is America's priorities?
JENNA LEE (co-host): Are we in this kind of stalemate [in Afghanistan] like it seems some are describing in Libya -- of course we're not there with combat troops -- but where no side is really gaining any ground and nothing really changes?
McFARLAND: Well the plan that -- the Petraeus plan is to really spend this summer -- they've diminished and decimated the middle ranks of Al Qaeda at the same time they've built up the middle ranks, the mid-level management of the Afghans. So the plan is to continue to make inroads into the Al Qaeda -- not the Al Qaeda so much as the Taliban, and then have slowly but surely the Afghans take over. And it will take a number of years to do that.
McFARLAND: We're doing the military part right, but it's a three-legged stool. And the other parts of the stool, the other legs, are the Afghan government and the Pakistani government, which has safe havens for the Taliban.
During the Happening Now segment, Fox even aired a photo of McFarland's meeting with Petraeus without disclosing what they discussed about Petraeus' future:
From the December 2 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:
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As News Corp. seeks to move on from the phone hacking scandal that rocked the company last year, two former editors of Rupert Murdoch's now-shuttered News of the World have been charged with bribery.
Former tabloid editors Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson have been accused by British prosecutors of conspiring to pay public officials in exchange for information, according to the Associated Press. Those charges stem from the wide-ranging hacking scandal that has brought down company executives, journalists, and politicians and resulted in a British parliamentary panel declaring Murdoch "not a fit person" to run a major media group, and come as News Corp. attempts to shed the scandal and make new acquisitions.
The British criminal investigation began following the revelation that journalists and editors at the British tabloid, The News of the World, had hacked into phones to uncover information in order to report stories. Now, Brooks is being charged with conspiring to pay a Ministry of Defense employee for a series of stories for Murdoch's The Sun tabloid, and Coulson is accused of conspiring to pay officials for access to a royal phone directory. Brooks and Coulson, who have been brought up on other charges associated with the scandal, have repeatedly denied any criminality.
Brooks served as an editor of The News of the World, The Sun, and most recently as the CEO of News International, until she resigned in July 2011. She was arrested two days after her resignation. Coulson was an editor at The News of the World until 2007, when he left to become a spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron. He resigned that position in 2011 amid the hacking scandal.
In July 2011, The News of the World shut down.
These latest charges of bribery come on the heels of several indications that News Corp. is attempting to move past the scandal; indeed, The New York Times reported November 19 that the company "is starting to look like its old self again" and is looking to make acquisitions after having "been on its heels for more than a year because of the phone hacking scandal in Britain."
News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch rebuffed New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's attempt not to politicize the response to Hurricane Sandy.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Christie praised President Obama's response to the storm. Murdoch responded by tweeting that Christie "while thanking O, must re-declare for Romney or take blame for next four dire years." The Murdoch-owned New York Post went further, demanding that Christie say that Obama's response to Sandy "would have been more than matched by Mitt Romney had he been president." The Post said that if Christie did not follow this advice, "the Republican Party will never forgive him."
Now, The New York Times has reported that Murdoch's tweet prompted Christie to call Murdoch on November 3 to personally explain that "amid the devastation, New Jersey needed friends no matter their political party." But Murdoch rebuffed Christie's explanation for why he had praised Obama and, according to the Times, bluntly told Christie that he "risked looking like a spoiler unless he publicly reaffirmed his support for Romney." Following the call, Christie reiterated his support for Romney the following day.
From the New York Times:
On Nov. 3, Mr. Christie called Rupert Murdoch, the influential News Corporation chief and would-be kingmaker, who had warned in a biting post on Twitter that the governor might be responsible for Mr. Obama's re-election.
Mr. Christie told Mr. Murdoch that amid the devastation, New Jersey needed friends, no matter their political party, according to people briefed on the discussion. But Mr. Murdoch was blunt: Mr. Christie risked looking like a spoiler unless he publicly affirmed his support for Mitt Romney, something the governor did the next day.
Despite Christie's re-endorsement of Romney, personalities at Fox News -- which Murdoch owns -- and other right-wing media figures lashed out at Christie following Obama's reelection.
From the November 18 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:
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News Corp. chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch criticized the "Jewish owned press" for its coverage of the conflict in Gaza in a November 17 tweet:
The Anti-Defamation League writes of the "anti-Semitic lie" that "Jews control the banks, the media, and the government":
This myth originates with The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, a proven forgery. The forgery continues to promote the stereotype that Jews own the banks and control the media. The reality is, in societies, like the United States, individuals who identify as Jews have succeeded. But in almost every other country where Jews have lived, they have been a small minority and experienced centuries of persecution.
The Daily Beast's Peter Beinert writes that Murdoch's comment is offensive to journalists as well as to Jewish people and suggests that Murdoch believes reporters for his publications should conform their reporting to his political views:
It's offensive to journalists because it implies that institutions of the "press" should reflect the ideological biases of their owners. Reading Murdoch's tweet, it would be logical to conclude that he believes that any newspaper he owns should reflect his right-wing views, even in its news coverage. The FCC might want to consider that when evaluating Murdoch's reported bid to buy the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times.
After President Obama's re-election, conservative media figures attacked New Jersey Governor Chris Christie for his praise of the president's leadership following Hurricane Sandy. Their attacks followed News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch's pre-election statement that Christie would be to blame if Obama won the election.
Rupert Murdoch, the CEO of Fox News parent company News Corp., tweeted on Thursday that "Republicans have to ignore" "nativists" and "embrace Hispanics." However, Fox News itself has a history of promoting extreme anti-immigrant voices and positions.
From Murdoch's Twitter feed:
In a remarkable lead editorial in Rupert Murdoch's New York Post today, the newspaper demands that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie inject presidential politics into the cleanup effort under way in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. The Post insists he do so immediately or run the risk of being a labeled a traitor within the Republican Party.
Murdoch's Post, at this very late state of the election run, demands Christie politicize the hurricane relief effort by basically campaigning for Mitt Romney in the context of the killer storm. (Christie hosted President Obama on Wednesday to survey the state's historic damage.) And if Christie does not, the Post warns, "the Republican Party will never forgive him."
From the Post's "Politicking matters" editorial (emphasis added):
But Christie does need to go one step further and reassure his party -- and not just his party -- that he hasn't turned coat.
Yes, Christie has forcefully avoided politicking post-Sandy -- as he noted when asked about his praise for Obama.
And he was right to do so.
But true bipartisanship includes the need to make clear his belief that the incumbent's vigorous response to the disaster would have been more than matched by Mitt Romney had he been president.
The Post's ominous threat to the Republican comes two days after News Corp. CEO Murdoch took to Twitter to announce Christie would be to blame for the "next four dire years" under Obama if the governor didn't "re-declare" his loyalty to Romney:
There's a deep irony in one of Murdoch's partisan properties now lecturing the New Jersey governor about Sandy. It's ironic because in the immediate aftermath of the epic superstorm, Murdoch's Fox News, and particularly its prime-time lineup, couldn't have cared less about the destruction up and down the East Coast, or even the historic flooding and damage in Fox's corporate hometown of New York City.
As Sandy churned inland last week, Fox was focused on its never-ending Benghazi hysteria and portraying Obama as a treasonous coward. The once-in-a-century-storm that dismantled portions of the largest metropolitan area in America? Fox talkers weren't so concerned.
But now Murdoch declares Sandy matters (perhaps he's seen the polling) and wants the governor of the ravaged Garden State to extol the virtues of Romney's disaster relief effort, even though Romney has no federal experience dealing with disaster relief, and even though candidate Romney has no authority to help the state of New Jersey today.
For Murdoch's Post, blind loyalty to the Republican Party trumps public service, even in the most dire of circumstances.
Current and former staffers at the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune are expressing concern at reports Friday that News Corp. Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch might be interested in buying the papers from Tribune Company, with one veteran Times newsman calling the notion "horrifying beyond belief."
While many told Media Matters they are worried about Murdoch's potential ownership due to concerns over his ethical history and conservative ideology, others are so desperate to give their bankrupt papers financial stability that they are reluctantly willing to give him a chance.
"I have heard people express concerns of various kinds," said one current Los Angeles Times' journalist and former newsroom editor who requested anonymity. "He invests in the properties, he has not downsized the [Wall Street] Journal. The one concern, fear of the unknown, is, well, the L.A. Times still has a substantial foreign staff, a substantial national staff and a substantial Washington bureau. What happens to those?"
One fear is that the takeover could spark an exodus of staff, which occurred at The Wall Street Journal after Murdoch purchased parent company Dow Jones in late 2007. Dozens of the paper's best journalists left, citing a perceived change in the paper's focus and at times an increased push for more business-friendly stories.
Several current and former Tribune Company staffers recalled what happened when Murdoch bought the rival Chicago Sun-Times in 1984, later selling it in 1986. The sale sparked the departure of many Sun-Times staffers, including the legendary columnist Mike Royko, who vowed not to work for Murdoch and left for the Tribune.
"If you look at the history of what he did across the street at the Sun-Times, that is a shot that the paper never fully recovered from," said a current Tribune staffer who sought anonymity. "The sentiment of people is 'we want to keep doing the work we do,' owners do what they want to do with the paper."
Speculation about a Murdoch purchase of the Times, Tribune, or perhaps other Tribune Company properties began last week with an October 19 Los Angeles Times report that he was interested. It cited "two ranking News Corp. executives and others familiar with the situation," indicated talks were in the "early stages," and stated a takeover could occur by the end of 2012.
News Corp. has denied the report, but the Los Angeles Times stands by its story.
A News Corp. purchase of the Times and the Tribune would give Murdoch control of four of the top 10 U.S. newspapers by circulation and, as the Times notes, "strong footholds in the nation's three largest media markets."
The possible purchase by Murdoch comes at a time when Tribune Company, which owns the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, and 10 other daily newspapers, as well as 23 television stations and other media properties, is emerging from a bruising four-year bankruptcy battle that has already cut its revenues and staff.
The financial problems stem from the 2007 purchase of Tribune Company by real estate magnate Sam Zell, who paid for the takeover through a leveraged buyout that created $13 million in debt. The company filed for bankruptcy a year later, a move that remains unresolved as creditors battle over a resolution plan in court.
The thought that Murdoch could take over some or all of the company's properties drew concern among current and former staffers.
PBS' Frontline recently aired a documentary titled "Climate of Doubt," examining how conservative groups, frequently funded by the fossil fuel industry, have pushed Republicans to reject the scientific consensus on manmade global warming. Here, Media Matters looks back at how Fox News has contributed to that "Climate of Doubt," often teaming up with industry to misrepresent science and attack all efforts to address this threat.