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The Murdoch family was called on Thursday to defend the Fox News Channel for its alleged role in the rise of Donald Trump.
At the 21st Century Fox annual meeting, one shareholder asked co-chairman Rupert Murdoch if he expected a “backlash” for FNC’s sometimes favorable coverage of Trump.
“All the media is given too much credit for influence. People can make up their own minds,” Murdoch told the shareholders assembled at Fox Studios in Los Angeles.
A questioner also wondered whether FNC might have to face competition from a Trump TV, which was rumored to be in the works should Trump have lost the election, and some observers predict it is still a possibility.
“There was never any risk of a Trump TV. It would have taken a big investment,” Murdoch said.
Another shareholder wondered if FNC’s ratings will suffer under a President Trump, his assertion being that the No. 1 cable news network has traditionally performed better under a Democratic president than under a Republican.
Co-executive chairman Lachlan Murdoch fielded that one, noting that FNC has been the top cable channel for 13 straight weeks, and that all news networks benefited from historic ratings surrounding the U.S. presidential election.
“We expect some of the interest, obviously, in the political news cycle to temper, and ratings across the board in news to flip back. But in terms of our position against our competitors, we absolutely expect to remain No. 1.”
The shareholder also wanted to know whether there was progress in getting FNC star Megyn Kelly a new contract, and the Murdochs said they’d alert the public when there was something to announce.
Lachlan Murdoch also addressed the firing of Roger Ailes.
“We are deeply committed to maintaining a culture based on our longstanding values of trust and of respect with no exceptions,” he said.
“We demonstrated this commitment with our actions following a complaint of sexual harassment against the chairman and CEO of Fox News,” he continued. “Throughout this process we moved quickly and decisively to protect our business and its valued employees as well as the important voice of Fox News.”
Beyond FNC, the executives were anxious to talk about initiatives involving streaming media and skinny TV bundles, like Sling TV, Sony Vue and Hulu, the latter of which will offer live TV next year.
Lachlan Murdoch said only 50 percent of the TV watched by the conglomerate’s audience is viewed live nowadays.
Hulu, founded a decade ago, is now worth $5.8 billion, courtesy of a recent investment in the firm from Time Warner.
He said 21st Century Fox is embracing digital services and skinny bundles because they can offer “great value” and an “unsurpassed user experience.”
As for traditional broadcast television, he praised the quality of new shows like Lethal Weapon, Pitch, The Exorcist and Son of Zorn.
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