Murdoch is the primary shareholder and Chief Executive of The News
Corporation, Ltd., one of the largest and most powerful media companies
in the world. In this position, Murdoch has become perhaps the world's
leading media mogul. His bold style, his unconventional and visionary
approach, and his willingness to aggressively assume great risks
have made him a figure both admired and disdained throughout the
world. His company owns properties on four continents, which produce
and distribute products in television, films, book, newspaper, and
magazine publishing, and on-line data services.
began his rise to the status of media baron in a relatively modest
way. He inherited his father's newspaper holdings in 1952, which,
after estate taxes, consisted of two small Australian papers, the
Adelaide News and Sunday Mail. Murdoch was able to quickly
reverse the unprofitable states of these newspapers, and he used
the new profits to acquire other media properties--thereby exhibiting
the fundamental growth strategy that would come to characterize
his career. By the late 1960s, Murdoch expanded his newspaper and
magazine empire to include British newspaper holdings, first acquiring
London's The News of the World in 1968, and soon thereafter,
The Sun. It was the transformation of the Sun into a sensationalized
tabloid--which most notoriously included a regular "Page Three"
feature of photos of topless women--that sealed Murdoch's reputation
as a media owner who was willing to pander to his audience's worst
instincts in exchange for commercial acceptance, a label that has
dogged Murdoch throughout his career. However, it must be noted
that such fears have sometimes proven to be unfounded, as was the
case following Murdoch's 1981 purchase of the revered London Times,
which largely retained the stoic editorial character for which it
was well known.
entered the U.S. media market in the 1970s by purchasing newspapers
and magazines, and he also started the supermarket tabloid, The
Star. But it was not until the mid-1980s that Murdoch began
to make his mark on American television. His purchase of Metromedia's
independent television stations from John Kluge in 1985 came on
the heels of his acquisition of the 20th Century-Fox studio. Murdoch
saw the situation as a rare opportunity to purchase a group of choice
television stations in the country's largest markets, thereby ensuring
a distribution vehicle for his new studio's programs. The combined
moves allowed Murdoch to initiate the most serious effort to establish
a fourth broadcast television network since the demise of DuMont
in the mid-1950s, and culminated in the establishment of the FOX
his career's many successes, Murdoch's empire nearly collapsed in
1990. Unfavorable conditions in the financial markets, combined
with deep losses by some of News Corp.'s start-up operations, such
as BSkyB, and the company's extremely heavy short-term debt load
(the result of many costly acquisitions, such as TV Guide, which
was purchased in 1988 from Walter Annenberg's Triangle Publications),
brought the company to the brink of financial ruin. While Murdoch
was able to renegotiate the terms of his agreements, which avoided
the disaster, it temporarily placed Murdoch in the unusual position
of being unable to aggressively expand News Corp.'s holdings. In
fact, he was forced to shed some non-essential assets, including
most of his U.S. magazine titles. It was only a relatively short
time, though, before the company's financial picture improved significantly,
and Murdoch was able to once again resume his familiar patterns
of acquisition, as he did when he purchased a controlling interest
in Asia's Star-TV DBS service in 1993.
perhaps befits a man with such a great level of power and influence,
Murdoch has often found himself at the center of political firestorms.
He became widely scorned by labor organizations and pro-labor politicians
around the world because of his hardline tactics in battling the
British newspaper workers' unions in the mid-1980s. His 1985 purchase
of the Metromedia television stations required him to become an
American citizen to comply with Federal Communications Commission
(FCC) restrictions on foreign ownership of U.S. television stations;
many felt he received inordinately preferential treatment by the
Reagan administration in expediting the citizenship process. His
FOX television network was able to avoid complying with the FCC's
Financial Interest and Syndication (FinSyn) rules, first, by airing
fewer hours of programming than was required to define FOX as a
"network," and later, by receiving a temporary FCC waiver of the
rules--an action the other three broadcast networks vigorously opposed.
Also, Murdoch was the specific target of a 1988 effort by Senator
Edward Kennedy--at the time, a frequent target of Murdoch's Boston
Herald newspaper--to revoke another FCC waiver, one that waived
cross-ownership restrictions that would have prevented Murdoch from
owning both newspapers and television stations in New York and Boston.
The end result of Kennedy's efforts was that Murdoch eventually
sold the New York Post (he later would receive a new waiver
that allowed him to reacquire the struggling paper in 1993), and
put Boston's WFXT-TV into an independent trust.
mid-1990s political storm held the potential to be the most costly
that had ever surrounded Murdoch. Nearly ten years after he had
become an American citizen, and after many millions of dollars had
been invested in the FOX network and its owned-and-operated stations,
questions arose related to Murdoch's avoidance of the FCC's restrictions
on foreign ownership of television stations. The National Association
for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which was seeking
to block the purchase of a Philadelphia television station by FOX,
asked the FCC to investigate whether it was Murdoch who owned the
FOX stations, as he and News Corp. claimed, or whether Australian-based
News Corp. was the legal owner, which would be in violation of the
rules. NBC joined the NAACP in asking the FCC to pursue the investigation,
but eventually withdrew from the complaint after gaining access
for their programming on Murdoch's Star-TV service in Asia. However,
the NAACP continued to pursue the issue.
Murdoch has been one of the most successful international entrepreneurs
of his time, and a lightning rod for controversy in many parts of
the world. While other global media companies, such as Time Warner
and Bertelsmann A.G., possess power and influence that compare to
that of News Corp., Murdoch often appears to stand alone among the
ranks of modern media moguls. This is because unlike those other
companies, News Corp. is clearly identified as a corporate arm that
is strongly controlled by a single individual. It is therefore probably
fair to say that his absolute control over News Corp., with its
holdings of some of the world's most pervasive and influential media
properties, makes Rupert Murdoch perhaps the single most powerful
media magnate ever.
Rupert K. Murdoch
Photo courtesy of Rupert K. Murdoch
K.(KEITH) MURDOCH. Born in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 11
March 1931. Attended Oxford University, England. Married: Anna Maria
Torv, 1967; two sons and two daughters. Spent two years in London
as sub-editor with the Daily Express, 1950-52; inherited
father's newspaper holdings, 1952, and returned to Australia to
run The Adelaide News and Sunday Mail; acquired more
Australian newspapers and expanded to England in 1969, buying The
News of the World and The Sun; purchased San Antonio
Express--News, 1973, and the New York Post, 1976; his
News International organization subsequently bought the New York
Magazine, The Star, the London Times and Sunday Times, the
Boston Herald, the Chicago-Sun Times, television stations, book
publishing companies, and airline, oil, and gas concerns; purchased
20th Century-Fox and independent U.S. television stations from Metromedia,
1985, and established FOX Broadcasting Network; took U.S. citizenship,
1985; sold New York Post to conform with Federal Communications
Commission regulations, 1988; acquired Triangle Publications, including
TV Guide, 1988; founded Sky satellite television network,
1989; Sky absorbed rival British Satellite Broadcasting to become
British Sky Broadcasting, 1990; bought controlling interest in Asia's
Star-TV, 1993. Director, News International plc, since 1969; chief
executive, since 1979, and chair, since 1991, News Corporation Ltd;
chair and chief executive, 20th Century-Fox, since 1992. Address:
1211 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10036, U.S.A.; 1
Virginia Street, London, E1 9XY, England.
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Berlusconi, Silvio; Bertelsmann
Sky Broadcasting; Cable
States: Cable Television; Diller,
Coroporation, Ltd.; STAR