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Amid a rise in confirmed coronavirus cases in multiple states in the U.S., Fox Corp. is postponing plans for a companywide return to its offices this fall.
Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch stated on Thursday that while he hopes TV production activities will “increase substantially” in the near term, non-production employees are not expected to return to the office in 2020.
The company, formed from assets not included in the sale of much of Rupert Murdoch’s film and TV empire to Disney for $71.3 billion, includes Fox News, Fox Sports and Fox Entertainment, as well as local TV stations. The company’s offices are headquartered at 1211 Avenue of the Americas in Midtown Manhattan.
“While we understand the desire to return to our pre-coronavirus ‘normal’ and see our friends and colleagues in person, our approach to fully reopening facilities is guided by your health and safety,” Murdoch wrote in a memo to staff on Thursday. “The rising rates of positive cases in areas where we have a significant presence coupled with evolving restrictions and best practices around the country are impacting and postponing our planned companywide return to work efforts this fall.”
Murdoch later noted: “While the needs of each business will vary over the next five months, we currently expect that those non-production employees who have been working remotely will continue to do so for the remainder of the calendar year.
The remote work move is in line with other large media companies amid the COVID-19 pandemic. On July 15, ViacomCBS chief Bob Bakish told employees that “we are assuming the majority of employees will not be returning to U.S. offices this year” at its brands including Paramount Pictures, Comedy Central, BET and MTV and others. WarnerMedia’s CNN chief Jeff Zucker has also indicated that many staffers won’t return to offices until 2021.
The Fox Corp. memo also disclosed that the company is “extending our coverage of medical insurance premiums for employees enrolled in the FOX-sponsored plans through the end of the calendar year.”
Murdoch added: “Learnings from the past several months will influence our long-term thinking about how we operate and the flexibility we can offer. We are evaluating several longer-term work arrangements and will have more to share as our plans progress.”
Fox Sports holds rights to broadcasts of college sports, National Football League games and Major League Baseball, which started its season on July 23 but has seen some game disruptions as some players test positive for COVID-19. In its earnings disclosure on Aug. 4, Fox Corp warned that “shifting sports schedules” and any potential “additional content disruptions in the future” amid the uncertainty of the pandemic may adversely affect its business.
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