Lachlan Murdoch, the already-clueless CEO of Fox Corp., has decided he can deal with Fox's billion-dollar lawsuits, struggling ratings and extremist lies from halfway around the world.
NPR reports that Murdoch and his family have already left Los Angeles, enrolled their children in Sydney and that the family is expected to stay there at least through the school year.
The company has not explained to employees how Murdoch intends to run the company a half-world away. Fox Corp. released a brief statement Tuesday evening: "Lachlan continues to split his time between Los Angeles, New York and Sydney as he has for years. Our businesses all are thriving, even as we, like most organizations, have predominately managed our teams and communicated by zoom for the last 12 months."
Describing Fox as “thriving” depends a lot on your definition of that word. Fox faces two very serious defamation lawsuits whose combined damages claims total more than $4.3 billion. On top of that, the network is having ratings issues.
Deadline reports that all news networks were down significantly in March 2021 vs. March 2020, but Fox’s decrease, 34%, was nearly twice that of MSNBCs 19% (CNN dropped 37%). Fox’s total day ratings were down 40% vs. CNN’s 32% and MSNBC’s 19%. And there’s more:
In the first quarter, Fox News topped primetime with an average 2.48 million total viewers, but it was the only one of the three major news networks to decline in the period versus a year earlier, as its numbers were off by 27%. MSNBC, meanwhile, posted 2.34 million, up 16%, and CNN had 1.94 million, a boost of 35%. In the 25-54 demo, CNN was on top with 524,000, up 22%, followed by Fox News with 391,000 (down 33%) and MSNBC with 365,000 (up 7%).
In total day, MSNBC was No. 1 with an average of 1.37 million viewers, up 25%, followed by CNN with 1.35 million (up 50%) and Fox News with 1.32 million (down 31%). CNN was on top in the 25-54 demo, averaging 349,000, up 38%, followed by Fox News with 221,000 (down 38%) and MSNBC with 217,000 (up 20%).
There is a question of how much Lachlan Murdoch really runs the company. NPR’s David Folkenflik reports, “Even at the age of 90, [father Rupert Murdoch] is still seen as a defining force at Fox and News Corp., making Lachlan Murdoch's own influence in piloting the larger family's holdings tough to discern.”
Whether by his own design or his father’s, Lachlan Murdoch has long seemed oblivious and/or indifferent to what goes on at Fox News. For example, in March 2020, The New York Times published an article titled, “Rupert Murdoch Put His Son in Charge of Fox. It Was a Dangerous Mistake.” Its subtitle: “The 48-year-old Lachlan Murdoch stood by as Fox News hosts played down the danger of the deadly coronavirus to their viewers.”
I wrote about that article:
The article, by newly-hired Ben Smith, paints Lachlan Murdoch as a likable but out-of-touch and disinterested manager without the chops for the job: “Lachlan has delegated much of the running of the company to Viet Dinh, a high-powered Republican lawyer without much experience in the media business,” Smith reports. “People close to Lachlan Murdoch describe him as a laid-back executive who doesn’t spend his days watching Fox and is sometimes surprised to learn of a controversy it has generated.”
Smith compared Fox in the Trump era to an asylum run by its inmates.
More recently, Murdoch proved just how ignorant he is about Fox when he said, “We're going to stick to the center-right. That's where our audience is.”
Don’t get me wrong, Fox is still a dangerous juggernaut. While Lachlan Murdoch buries his head in his money, Fox is getting more and more extreme. It is promoting COVID disinformation that literally puts lives at risk. It has hired brazen liars like Lara Trump and Kayleigh McEnany, now a Fox cohost. It has also given a wider platform to white nationalist hero Tucker Carlson, to “expand the amount of reporting and analysis” he does – just months after Fox argued you shouldn’t believe anything he says.
One other thing: In an article about how Fox routinely attacks pandemic safety measures while implementing them for its own staff, Media Matters notes that Australia has “some of the world’s lowest coronavirus rates -- in part due to its strict quarantine procedure.”
(Murdoch image via screen grab)
I’m sure it’s well known amongst our friends, though I can’t remember any discussion of it, but last night I stumbled upon the movie ‘Bombshell’, made a couple of years ago about Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron), Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) and the downfall of Ailes (John Lithgow). SNL’s leading lady Kate McKinnon is particularly good and Malcolm McDowell does a quite passable Wrinkled Rupert.
The likenesses and the acting were top notch, and it seemed to confirm the facts that we know about the situation, but for those of us already deeply engaged with the matter it could be a little diverting working out the timeline and who the supporting players were portraying from time to time.
Those reservations aside, it’s a movie well worth the watch.