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Lachlan Murdoch was defiant Tuesday when he declared that advertising boycotts — like ones against shows hosted by Tucker Carlson or Laura Ingraham — will not dictate the content on Fox News.
“The boycotts themselves are not having a financial impact of any significance,” said the CEO of Fox Corporation, the parent of Fox News.
Murdoch, speaking to Wall Street analysts, then launched into a story involving himself as a teenager watching his father, Rupert Murdoch, speak to a large advertiser at one of the newspapers he owned.
The advertiser warned the elder Murdoch that if he didn’t call off an investigative reporter about to reveal something negative about the business, he’d yank his advertising.
“Without a pause or taking a breath, my father said, ‘Fine, pull your advertising.’ He ended up not pulling his advertising and we ended up continuing our investigation into what was real fraud in the business,” said Murdoch. “I learned a lesson … advertisers don’t tell our journalists what they can say or what they can write.”
He said that even if boycotts did harm the company financially, “it wouldn’t affect the way we program that channel.”
Speaking at the MoffettNathanson 6th Annual Media and Communications Summit in New York, the executive was asked if Fox News can maintain its success once Donald Trump is no longer president.
Noting that Fox News has been tops in the industry for 17 years, across multiple presidential administrations, Murdoch said, “You generally do better in opposition … than you do in alignment or agreement with the government. In fact, if you look at the ratings, it’s our competitors who have done relatively better under the Trump administration. I think the main beneficiary is MSNBC.”
Fox Corporation is the company that was left behind after Disney bought most of 21st Century Fox in a $71.3 billion deal, including the film studio but not the broadcast network. Murdoch said that Fox will not be following Disney, WarnerMedia and NBCUniversal in launching its own Netflix-like streaming service for its entertainment network, though it has such products for news and sports already.
“On the entertainment side, we sold our entertainment library to Disney as part of the deal, so we don’t envision any time soon having a pure entertainment direct-to-consumer product,” Murdoch said.
After the Disney transaction, “we literally had a blank sheet of paper in how we want to run the company,” the exec added. An early order of business was to hand out free stock to every worker, the majority getting between $1,000 to $3,000 in shares.
“It started with the top few hundred as a way to retain top talent,” he explained. “There was a large portion left over. … I realized it actually made sense to give it to all the employees.”
Murdoch also said that another change is that Fox News is no longer run “completely separately,” as it was as part of 21st Century Fox. One team, for example, sells ads for sports news and entertainment, and affiliation and retransmission is also under one roof. Therefore, Fox News can be used “to maximize leverage and draw value” when negotiating deals involving other Fox Corporation assets.
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