You’ve probably seen all over the news today that the head of Fox News and News Corp Rupert Murdoch is stepping down from those positions. But crusty old billionaires retire from the boards of their companies all the time and nobody cares, so why are people going bonkers for Rupert? And why does everybody keep talking about Succession?
Here’s why Rupert Murdoch’s ‘retirement’ is MASSIVE news, and what it means for the future of news, media, the world, and your racist uncle’s takes.
Who is Rupert Murdoch?
Rupert Murdoch is the 92-year-old pulling the strings behind basically all news for over seven decades.
Murdoch started his career in Australia selling newspapers in Adelaide from his father’s company in the 1950’s – *cough* nepo baby *cough* – and since then has built an international empire spanning all news platforms he could buy.
It is difficult to comprehend just how much of our news is owned by Murdoch. In Australia if you consume media from any of the following outlets, they’re Murdoch’s mouthpieces:
- The Australian
- The Daily Telegraph
- The Herald Sun
- Sky News
- Fox News and Foxtel
- Binge, Kayo Sports, and Flash
- Vogue Australia
- The Courier-Mail
- The Advertiser
- The Mercury
- taste.com.au (let him cook!)
- And like a hundred more community and regional newspapers across the country.
That’s not even taking into account all the overseas news platforms he owns in the UK and USA like The Sun, The Times, Fox News, The New York Post, and The Wall Street Journal. As well as radio stations and book publishers. The man owns it all.
All these outlets, though they still publish news, present it through Murdoch’s editorial lens.
His takes are the ones being pushed by the bottom line, and they aren’t always the hottest ones.
He owns so much that there’s been constant calls from figures like Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull to have a royal commission into the chokehold Murdoch has on Australia’s media landscape.
On their 5 biggest front pages, they ran a 5-1 bias for the Liberals over Labor. Murdoch is a protection racket for the Liberals. Whatever tonight’s result, they’ve been exposed as a Liberal protection racket. More to come. pic.twitter.com/YBQntsSEhm— Office of Kevin Rudd, 26th PM of Australia (@MrKRudd) May 21, 2022
Which brings us to the next question…
Why is he so controversial?
You might be wondering, what’s so bad about a hard working guy managing to create such a big empire? It’s a question that many people, including the business-alpha-podcast-bros in your life are probably asking.
The reason it is downright abominable is because this much power means Murdoch can dictate what news entire countries worth of people see, or don’t see. What issues are worth addressing, and which ones can be swept under the rug.
This influence can be used to sway people’s views on political issues like climate change, or political figures like Donald Trump. Hot political topics like abortion and trans-bathrooms have be used by the Murdoch press to incite culture wars.
Chances are, the obnoxious relative you have who denies global warming, loves Trump, and hates “the woke leftist agenda”, got that influence from outlets like Fox News or Sky News. Those misinformed views can be dangerous as idealogical violence when it comes to voting.
…Or can become dangerous as physical violence in the case of the January 6 riots in America, which Murdoch’s outlets have been blamed for ‘inciting’ due to spreading misinformation about the 2020 election.
In Australian politics, Murdoch is regarded as the ‘kingmaker‘ as if you want to become a powerful figure like PM, you’ll need his blessing. Whoever or whatever Murdoch’s publications show favour toward, wins.
Though it isn’t explicit, every leader has to suck up to Murdoch, for fear they’ll lose their job if they don’t. That’s the nature of politics.
As a highly relevant example, let’s look at the upcoming Voice referendum. News Corp have the power to inform the public and help get the Voice through, but unfortunately that’s not their agenda, and all the current news polls suspect the referendum will fail. That is not coincidence, that is cause-and-effect.
It’s this unholy amount of power that makes Rupert Murdoch and his empire dangerous. So dangerous that even President Biden referred to him as “the most dangerous man in the world“. Because how can you oppose someone whose voice is infinitely louder?
It’s this crazy lifestyle and power that inspired the entire show Succession. In fact, the show was so clearly based on Murdoch’s on life that he had his ex-partners legally promise they wouldn’t sell stories about his life to HBO. Imagine being that 1) rich, but 2) petty.
That’s why Rupert Murdoch is such a controversial figure. Though he may not have a net-worth as ludicrously high as other billionaires, his influence on the public is quite literally priceless.
Why is he stepping down?
Rupert Murdoch has historically said that retirement is not his game-plan. Over 25 years ago he said that if he retired it means he would “die pretty quickly.”
So the news of him stepping down is a huge shake up. Think of that time Buckingham announced Queen Elizabeth II was in hospital, except if the Queen actually still had any power.
However it’s not retirement in the sense that he won’t be around. Rupert Murdoch’s plan here is to slowly transition out, leaving his positon as the head of News Corp and Fox, giving that positon to the next in line. He will still maintain some form of power in a new position titled ‘chairman emeritus’.
The reason he’s stepping down could be as simple as an acknowledgment that he is getting old, and will need to begin the transition of power soon.
But it could also be a captain ditching a sinking ship, with reports that Fox News is about to undergo massive legal damages caused by the very person set to fill his shoes.
Because every job with a massive handover means you want to get started early, especially if the next person in line is… (Quick take your guess before the next paragraph starts!)
Who is taking his place?
His son, Lachlan Murdoch. (Did you get it right? Of course you did, well done!)
This is where we get to the Succession references. Kendall Roy has taken over, and nobody is looking forward to it.
Like Kendall, Lachlan Murdoch does not have the same track record as a successful businessman that his father has. His companies have not had the same success under his management, and he is not as talented a media mogul as daddy Murdoch.
Lachlan Murdoch was the one who sued Australian publication Crikey for defamation when they accused him of inciting the Jan 6 riots. Lachlan is the one who has been described as having conservative views, “more vigorous than that of any Australian politician.”
However because of Lachlan’s perceived lack of skill in the position, as well as how sought after it is, it may not be a smooth transition.
The current gossip is that Rupert Murdoch has stepped down so that his board know that it is his dying wish for his son to have the head position, in the hopes they respect his request.
However people close to the Murdoch family and Wall Street analysts have gone on record stating that it’s “fair to assume Lachlan gets fired the day Rupert dies.”
What does this mean for the future of media?
This is a whole lot of business tea, and we can totally see why Succession was such a good fictional show if it’s real-life counterparts were already more dramatic than The Kardashians. But will the future of news be impacted by Murdoch stepping down?
Short-term, not much will change. Fox and News Corp will continue to publish the same democracy-eroding news/propaganda that gets them such a whopping viewership.
Lachlan is not going to majorly change anything up immediately, though maybe will try and push a harder-line on certain conservative topics like he did during the 2020 American election.
In the long term, there could be something bigger. Lachlan will be the third-generation Murdoch media mogul, which is statistically the generation where most family businesses fail. But what is failure to News Corp? Can a ship really sink if it’s bigger than all the oceans on the planet?
Most likely scenario is if Lachlan rocks the boat too much and the board sees imminent disaster, he’ll be replaced as predicted and Rupert’s legacy will live on through his company, even if his bloodlines doesn’t rule.
Of course it is unlikely that an empire of this scale would fall so quickly, if at all. As with all historical empires, News Corp wasn’t built in a day, and it won’t be destroyed in one.
Great now I’m thinking of the Romans again. Et tu, Rupey?