Rupert Murdoch, executive chairman of News Corp. and executive co-chairman of 21st Century Fox, insists the sexual-harassment problem at Fox News was “largely political” and a result of the network’s conservative leanings.
“It’s all nonsense,” Murdoch said on Sky News. “There was a problem with our chief executive, sort of over the year, isolated incidents.”
He was referring to former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, whom multiple women at the company accused of sexual harassment. Ailes resigned in July 2016 and died earlier this year.
Several other executives and on-air personalities at Fox News have also been accused of sexual harassment, causing dismissals and resignations. However, Murdoch insists it’s all about politics.
“That was largely political because we are conservative,” he said. “The liberals are going down the drain. NBC is in deep trouble. There are really bad cases, and people should be moved aside. There are other things – which probably amount to a bit of flirting.”
Meanwhile, Murdoch is counting on Americans’’ love of live sports and breaking news to float his new, leaner Fox television empire after selling 21st Century Fox to the Walt Disney Co. for $52 billion this week.
The News Corp. chairman is banking on the hope that sports and news are two things people still are willing to watch live – including the commercials – even as more people watch their favorite shows online or on-demand.
“Are we retreating? Absolutely not,” Murdoch assured investors Thursday, according to Reuters. “We are pivoting at a pivotal moment.”
Disney’s purchase of 21st Century Fox’s film, television and international businesses was announced earlier Thursday. It leaves Fox with a slimmer set of properties, including the Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, the Fox broadcast network, dozens of TV stations and a few cable sports channels
This new version of Fox will be roughly a third of its current size, with about $10 billion in annual revenue, according to company executives. However, Fox will retain the technology it has been developing, including an online streaming video service to boost online audiences for its programs.
As Reuters pointed out, the smaller Fox may have less leverage in negotiations with cable and satellite companies to carry its content, or in bidding wars for the right to air sports on its networks. But Murdoch said he faced the same concerns when launching Fox News in 1996 and Fox Sports 1 in 2013.
“Content and news relevant to you will always be valuable,” he told investors.
However, the Los Angeles Times reported Murdoch made the deal because he isn’t confident that Fox can be as dominant in the future as it was in the past.
On the other hand, Politico speculated the deal could be a “boon” for Fox News, allowing Murdoch to acquire local stations and suffuse them with Fox News’ impact, as well as give news more prominent play on the Fox broadcast channel.
“I suspect that the remainder of Fox will end up owning more local broadcast stations, which will lean more on news, especially including Fox News but also possibly News Corp.,” Brian Wieser, a senior analyst for communications and technology at Pivotal Research, told Politico. “Fox News can serve as a newsgathering organization at a national level for a broader range of TV stations if Fox owned more outright.”
The Disney-Fox deal is not expected to close until 2019 because Disney needs time to secure the required regulatory approvals in the U.S. and elsewhere, according to the L.A. Times. The Murdoch family would then own about 4.4 percent of Disney’s stock, making them the company’s second-largest shareholders.
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