A bandwagon of Right-Wing News Outlets are toiling away for Trump as intensely in 2020 as they had in 2016 — obscuring facts and manipulating news. Behind all of it is Rupert Murdoch.
In a move that could impact the 2020 US Elections during the final weeks of campaigning, former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has moved a petition seeking a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the near-monopolistic hold of Australian media by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Murdoch’s Fox News Channel and New York Post have been amongst the strongest supporters of President Trump and the strongest critics of his detractors.
Global ire against Right-Wing Media Mogul Rupert Murdoch may be a blow to Trump’s 2020 campaign.
The overwhelming support for the petition—that has garnered nearly a quarter million signatures within days of its posting and even jammed the Australian Parliament website on the first day—comes at a critical time for President Trump, who is already languishing with falling ratings in opinion polls. In a Twitter video released on Friday, Rudd said: “Murdoch has become a cancer — an arrogant cancer on our democracy.” He added that an inquiry would “maximize media diversity ownership for the future lifeblood of our democratic system.”
According to the New York Times: “The move was a very public attempt to challenge Mr. Murdoch, 89, and his global media empire, which contributed to the rise of right-wing politics and helped reshape democratic governments around the world.” The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Murdoch’s Global media dominance
Rupert Murdoch’s media outlets have faced increasing scrutiny in recent years in Australia, the US and the UK. News Corp has been widely accused of aiding the rise of right-wing politics and reshaping democracies around the world.
Rupert Murdoch’s media outlets are accused of aiding the rise of right-wing politics and reshaping democracies around the world.
In the UK, Murdoch owns The Times and The Sun newspapers as well as several radio outlets. The Sun was a leading advocate of the successful campaign for Brexit. In the US, aside from Fox News, Murdoch’s media empire also includes the New York Post, the Wall St Journal, and Dow Jones news wires. In Australia, Murdoch’s firm News Corp Australia controls about 70% of the nation’s print circulation. Murdoch also controls prominent news channels like Sky News Australia.
The company has often defended its stance against accusations of blatant right political bias, using racist language and imagery and undermining issues of climate change. The most recent controversy includes charges of racism in a cartoon depiction of Serena Williams.
The cartoon depicted Williams jumping above a broken racquet next to a baby’s dummy in the US Open final and went viral in September, drawing criticism globally.
While the Australian News Council cleared the cartoon, deeming that it did not breach media standards, the National Association of Black Journalists in the US denounced it as “repugnant on many levels”.
If one were to go by the volume of traffic the latest petition triggered, Parliament website saw a 500 percent spike in traffic and had to increase capacity, one would think Rudd has overwhelming support for the move. Rudd, and many others of the center-left Australian Labor Party, have maintained that Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp and its outsized presence have been partly to blame for their falls. Kevin Rudd served as Australia’s prime minister from 2007 to 2010, and for a few months in 2013. However, political response has been tepid to say the least.
“Murdoch has become a cancer — an arrogant cancer on our democracy,”Australia’s Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd
The current Labour leader, Anthony Albanese, sought to distance himself from the campaign saying that while his predecessor was entitled to push for a Royal Commission as a “private citizen”, the move was not backed by the party itself. There is no legal requirement for the Australian government to act on the petition regardless of how many signatures it garners. According to analysts, the current conservative coalition government is unlikely to approve such a high-level inquiry, and would not want to antagonize Murdoch. Belinda Barnett, a senior lecturer in media and communications at a Melbourne University, said in an article for the Guardian, “The government is not about to bite the hand that feeds it: there will be no royal commission, and if by some fluke it is made to order one, it will ignore the recommendations.”
The Heir’s resignation
Nonetheless, the timing of the petition does make it interesting, coming as it does shortly after the 89-year-old media mogul’s son, James Murdoch, resigned from the board of News Corp. Murdoch junior cited his growing discomfort over the agenda of Fox News and other outlets, disagreements “over certain editorial content … and certain other strategic decisions, ” for his decision. The discomfort in particular was regarding those editorial decisions relating to the company’s coverage of Donald Trump’s presidency. James Murdoch was once being touted as a potential successor to run his father’s business.
Speaking to the New York Times, James Murdoch said: “I reached the conclusion that you can venerate a contest of ideas, if you will, and we all do, and that’s important. But it shouldn’t be in a way that hides agendas.” He went on to say that “A contest of ideas shouldn’t be used to legitimize disinformation. And I think it’s often taken advantage of. And I think at great news organizations, the mission really should be to introduce fact to disperse doubt — not to sow doubt, to obscure fact, if you will.”
Murdoch junior resigned due to discomfort over the fact that media outlets part of his father’s News Corp obscure facts and spread disinformation.
Top-rated anchors on the Fox network are ardent supporters of President Trump and the network has been accused of spreading misinformation about coronavirus and climate change. “There are views I really disagree with on Fox,” James Murdoch said in a September interview to the New Yorker.
While his newsmen twist facts for Trump, the walls close in on Rupert Murdoch.
Despite the lack of political support for the move, the petition has certainly been welcomed as a step in the right direction by media analysts and has certainly made its impact felt for the Murdoch conglomerate. Even without immediate action from the government, it is likely that anger against the elder Murdoch will continue to simmer.
Watch: Donald Trump and Rupert Murdoch
On Monday, October 12, the first day of trading after the petition’s launch, News Corp’s share price fell sharply as the market opened. The company’s share price lost 49 cents in the first 10 minutes of trade alone, before recovering. While the stock revived in the course of the week, the simmering global anger against the media empire does suggest turbulent times ahead for the media mogul.
Simmering global anger against the media empire does suggest turbulent times ahead for the media mogul.