It has happened. After so many years at the top of his chosen profession, the chief Mafioso is stepping back from his lead role and making the next generation of his family the kind of business offer they cannot refuse. Rupert Murdoch, it has been announced, is “preparing to step down” as CEO of 21st Century Fox, the company that owns the Murdoch empire’s broadcast and film properties.
That's what I think of youse grim bladdy reaper, ya bastards!
Rupe will apparently maintain his controlling shareholding - although even he must realise that he can’t take it with him - while control of the beast that owns 20th Century Fox, Fox television network (including Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse)), STAR TV and that all-important stake in Sky, will pass to new co-COOs Lachlan Murdoch, and the rehabilitated figure of Murdoch Junior, presumably now forgiven for the Sky débacle.
And while some may give a sigh of relief that the SOB is finally shuffling towards the corporate exit door, there will be one part of the Murdoch empire that should be increasingly worried, and that is at his newspapers. Rupe maintains a love for print, perhaps because the huge profits that titles like the Sun generated for him in the past enabled him to get his foot in the broadcast door - and keep it there.
But the Sun and its sister Sunday paper are not the force they once were: the Sun on Sunday has declined so badly that it has been overtaken by the Mail On Sunday, a state of affairs that would never have happened with the now-defunct Screws (the MoS is also losing circulation, just not as badly). And few regard the Times, increasingly being used for party political purposes, as a worthwhile paper of record.
Worse, the Times and Sunday Times are losing money at an increasing rate. But the papers are still useful as part of Murdoch’s way of maintaining leverage on politicians, as broadcast rules in the UK prevent him from importing the Fox News format, along with its particular brand of what Jon Stewart called “opinutainment”. If Rupe could find a way around that, he would get out of print like the proverbial rat out of the aqueduct.
His sons aren’t interested in print media: making money is where there heads are at, and so those who run the New York Post - which loses the folding stuff hand over fist - should start to worry. Those who should also worry are those who thought they had seen off the move by the Murdochs to buy that part of Sky that they do not yet own. There’s plenty of dosh from the aborted Time Warner bid to fund another crack at that one.
Rupert Murdoch may be handing on his empire, slowly but surely. But while he remains in the building, the dangers of a yet more concentrated media ownership - via owning 100% of Sky - along with the prospect of compliant politicians allowing Fox News to spread to the UK as a better way to maintain his empire’s grip on them, remain too. Only when Rupe goes does the threat of the master Mafioso depart with him.
So, as Winshton might have said, this may be only the end of the beginning.
Hopefully when daddy goes, the kiddies will take Rebekah's teflon coat away from her.
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