At 92 years of age, Rupert Murdoch is the most emblematic face of journalism and the media business in these interesting times we live in.
The announcement of his retirement from running Fox News Corp. on September 21, which he leaves in the hands of Lachlan, the eldest of his two male children, is a kind of abdication of one of the media empires. most powerful in history.
With a personal fortune of over 21 billion dollars, the character born in Australia in 1931 did not become the richest Media Mogul in the world, but he was probably the most reach and influence that industry has had.
Murdoch is the journalist who published the falsified “Hitler Diaries”; the editor who persecuted and harassed Princess Diana until her death; the junk press entrepreneur criminally punished for spying on and blackmailing British celebrities and innocent victims; the same one who has just been sentenced to pay 787.5 million dollars for supporting the torrent of lies with which Donald Trump tried to steal the United States presidential election.
Fascinating character. With the size of Silvio Berlusconi, Michael Bloomberg, Sumner Redstone, Joseph Pulitzer, Frank E. Gannet, Ted Turner, John Malone, or William Randolph Hearst, Murdoch has been a champion of an industry in which, in the name of freedom and “the public’s right to know” has built castles of half-truths, worlds of alternative reality and entire universes of manipulation.
Without stopping to reflect on the typical traits of the great media moguls -egomaniacs, charismatics, authoritarians and folkloric-, and without needing to refer to the many tropicalized versions of this type of “leadership”, it is evident that the Murdoch case It is truly extraordinary.
70 years ago, he left the most prestigious university in the world (Oxford) to take charge of a couple of small-town newspapers in his homeland. Using populist rhetoric, almost always right-wing, that proclaims his contempt for “the elites”, Murdoch managed to reach the top of the UK media industry by following a simple mandate: “We’re here to give the public what they want.”
In the same vein as the old tabloids that, to sell newspapers on the streets, manufactured scandals, tragedies and even wars (U.S. vs. Spain; April-December 1898), in the 1970s Murdoch entered the American journalistic market through the New York Post, with which he had significant commercial success. Two decades later, he used the same formula, but in a television format and in just over 5 years Fox News displaced CNN as the cable news network with the largest audiences.
In an open bid for the power of entertainment – from sports to politics – Murdoch turned the world of news into a very lucrative political propaganda machine.
Always proud of his ability to understand what the common man “really wants to see and read,” Murdoch, like the greatest and most renowned journalists, certainly had the talent to put together great stories capable of seducing enormous audiences.
Exceptional “King maker”, Murdoch has been, perhaps, the main driver of the Trump phenomenon. Giving him the powerful Fox News platform to promote the slander that Barack Obama was not born in the United States or that Hillary Clinton killed children in the (non-existent) basement of a pizzeria did not, however, prevent Mr. Murdoch from being able to send the devil Donald Trump himself.
From his populist version of the news – he once explained his publishing success with the diagnosis that most audiences sought to be entertained with scenes of violent action and images of exuberant, scantily clad women – Rupert Murdoch built an empire that even reached him in 2007 to buy and impose his personal stamp on the Wall Street Journal, one of the most important newspapers in the world and just in 2019 he sold almost his entire soft content division to Disney Co. for 71 billions of dollars (although it maintained for himself its news and sports divisions).
Recognized and feared for the iron fist with which he ran his companies and dealt with his subordinates – something that, of course, never happens within the media sultanates around the world – Mr. Murdoch was born in the era of paper and in the digital era knew how to reach the top in the video format. Although the strength of his stories does not seem to have the same luck on the new social media platforms.
He himself has been a character of high literary value. He leaves the first-born male in charge of the business, although under rules of a peculiar inheritance in which upon his death his empire will be divided equally among his four oldest children. That is, Lachlan Murdoch, Elisabeth Murdoch, James Murdoch, and Prudence Murdoch, whom will have to agree to define the new direction of their father’s empire. In short, the show will go on.