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Right Wingers Fear Murdoch "Going Soft" on Liberals

Reported by Marie Therese - October 16, 2006 -

New York Magazine reports that Accuracy in Media, a conservative watchdog group, has purchased enough shares of News Corporation stock to allow their representatives to attend the October 20th stockholders' meeting. Their reason? Fears that News Corp's CEO Rupert Murdoch is moving his media outlets more to the left.

From New York Magazine:


Conservative watchdogs have a surprising new target: Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. Members of Accuracy in Media, the Washington-based monitor of the wayward mainstream press, found themselves in the unusual position of wondering, as AIM’s Cliff Kincaid puts it, “Is Mr. Murdoch moving his media properties to the left?” Murdoch didn’t exactly allay their fears last week in the New Yorker piece on his ideological drift. So the activists have bought up enough shares in News Corp. to go to its October 20 stockholders’ meeting at the Asia Society in New York. Kincaid has a laundry list of questions: Will the Murdoch-controlled DirecTV follow his British Sky Broadcasting and carry the forthcoming English-speaking version of Al Jazeera? And why did BSkyB also ink a recent distribution deal with Al Gore’s Current TV? Has Murdoch gone into business with left-wing billionaire Ron Burkle, who backs Current TV and went to war against the Post’s “Page Six” earlier this year, claiming extortion? And, of course, what about Murdoch’s new coziness with the Clintons: the Hillary fund-raiser? The big donations to the Clinton Global Initiative? Murdoch will field all those questions “patiently and thoroughly,” says News Corp. spokesman Andrew Butcher. “He’s put up with gadflies before.”


And this, from The New Yorker article:


The News Corp. progressives—they don’t like to be called liberals—are less visible in public, but they have greater access to Murdoch on a daily basis. They include his deputy Peter Chernin; the two co-chairs of Fox’s film division, Tom Rothman and Jim Gianopulos; and Gary Ginsberg, whom Murdoch refers to as his “ambassador to the Clinton Administration.” (Murdoch has told associates that it was Ginsberg who persuaded him to hold the fund-raiser for Hillary.)

If Murdoch did decide to support Hillary, he would meet resistance from his editors, starting with Col Allan. Although the editor of the [New York] Post has kind words for her over-all performance as senator, he is unhappy about some of her actions, such as her endorsement of Ned Lamont. Allan said to me, “We look forward to hearing her explain, perhaps in a Presidential campaign, exactly what her position on the war is. She has stated that she supports our troops in Iraq. Unless I’m mistaken, she voted to give the President authority to use military action in Iraq.”

Bill Kristol has a written guarantee of editorial independence, and he is unlikely to go easy on Hillary. If Murdoch no longer wanted to be associated with the contents of The Weekly Standard, which loses more than a million dollars a year, his only options would be to sell it or close it down. Recently, there has been gossip in Washington that Murdoch was considering selling the magazine, but he dismissed the idea. “I’ve just read half of this week’s issue,” he said. “It’s always interesting.”

The most intriguing case is Fox News, which owes a good deal of its success to its saturation coverage of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. It is virtually inconceivable that Murdoch would risk alienating the conservative viewers who enable the channel to make an annual profit of hundreds of millions of dollars, but there are steps he could take, short of ordering Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity to be nice to Hillary. In 2004, Fox did terrible damage to John Kerry’s campaign by devoting airtime to the Swift Boat controversy for weeks on end. If Hillary emerges as the Democratic candidate in 2008, there will doubtless be similar attempts by right-wing groups to attack her credibility. Should Fox prove less receptive to these efforts, the campaign could unfold very differently. (10-16-06)

COMMENT

For some time there has been speculation about how Murdoch and FOX News would handle a Democratic sweep in November and/or a Democratic Presidency in 2008. Even before the appointment of Tony Snow as White House Press Secretary, FNC had privileged access to the movers and shakers in the Republican Party which allowed them to get the "scoop" on a lot of stories. It also enabled the GOP to get its message out to its base, virtually unfiltered.

In the event of a Democratic victory on November 7th, that access may shrivel, something FOX News would not like to see happen.

It remains to be seen whether Accuracy in Media's worst nightmare becomes reality and FOX News actually does risk alientating its conservative base by shifting to the left.