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Rupert Murdoch grilled about donations

News Corp. honcho talks Jon Stewart rally, Fox News.

NEW YORK -- Questions about two $1 million political donations to conservative groups ahead of this year's U.S. mid-term elections took over a good portion of the News Corp. annual shareholder meeting here Friday.

Faced with criticism that the donations to the Republican Governors Assoc. and U.S. Chamber of Commerce had political motivations and no business benefits, chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch said "a fair amount of change" in Washington was "in the interest of the country and all the shareholders."

He also argued that while the donations were "unusual," they have "nothing to do with the editorial policies or the journalism" that the company provides.

Sir Rod Eddington, News Corp.'s audit committee head who came under pressure ahead of Friday's meeting due to the donations, also told shareholders that the donations decisions were made with shareholder interests in mind after input from executives and the general counsel. "I understand the concerns and the calls for transparency," he said.

Asked about his career plans as he turns 80 next year, Murdoch on Friday said he expects to continue running the company, although if his health turned sour one day, he promised "I will get out of the line."

Meanwhile, in the context of a question about Fox News, Murdoch acknowledged: "I don't agree with everything that's said on Fox News." He argued that is only natural as the network tries to present different views.
Murdoch also once again defended Fox News boss Roger Ailes when confronted with a critical comment about Ailes made in the past by Murdoch's son-in-law.

Asked about past reports that advertisers were staying away from or had left Glenn Beck's show on Fox News after he had called President Obama "racist," Murdoch said "maybe four or five" had moved over to Bill O'Reilly. "No one has taken any money off the channel," he said.

In a moment that caused some laughs, a shareholder asked if Murdoch would attend Jon Stewart's rally in Washington at the end of the month. "I never heard of it," he said. "But no, I'll be in Australia."

Eddington and all other nominated News Corp. directors were re-elected at the meeting. An outside proposal to give shareholders a say on executive pay did not pass.