Rupert Murdoch steps down as chairman of Fox and News Corp

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New York: After building an empire over seven decades, Rupert Murdoch is stepping down as the head of Fox and News Corp.

The Australian-born media mogul announced on Thursday (US time) that he will transition from his roles as chair of Fox Corporation and executive chairman of News Corp in November.

Rupert Murdoch is transitioning out of the top jobs at Fox and News Corp.Credit: AP

His son Lachlan will become the sole chairman of both companies, while Rupert Murdoch will become “chairman emeritus”.

The 92-year-old informed staff of his decision in a letter that stated he was still in good health but “the time is right to take on different roles”.

He added that he would continue to “be involved every day in the contest of ideas” and warned that the “battle for the freedom of speech and, ultimately, the freedom of thought, has never been more intense”.

“I am writing to let you all know that I have decided to transition to the role of Chairman Emeritus at Fox and News,” Murdoch wrote.

Lachlan Murdoch, left, and Rupert Murdoch attend the TIME 100 Gala in New York on April 21, 2015.Credit: Invision

“For my entire professional life, I have been engaged daily with news and ideas, and that will not change. But the time is right for me to take on different roles, knowing that we have truly talented teams and a passionate, principled leader in Lachlan who will become sole Chairman of both companies.”

Murdoch’s departure comes after a tumultuous period at Fox. In April, the company agreed to pay $US787.5 million ($1.17 billion) to settle a defamation suit filed by Dominion Voting Systems after the cable TV network accused Dominion of rigging its voting machines against former president Donald Trump in the 2020 election.

While the matter never made it to trial, Murdoch made stunning admissions in earlier depositions, including the fact that presenters had “endorsed” Donald Trump’s lies of a stolen election knowing they weren’t true, and that company executives could have intervened to prevent those lies from being aired.

One week after the Dominion settlement, Fox announced that it was parting ways with right-wing identity Tucker Carlson, its highest rating prime-time presenter, in a move that shocked the media world.

In his letter to staff, Murdoch insisted “our companies are in robust health, as am I” and noted that “in my new role, I can guarantee you that I will be involved every day in the contest of ideas”.

“Our opportunities far exceed our commercial challenges. We have every reason to be optimistic about the coming years – I certainly am, and plan to be here to participate in them. But the battle for the freedom of speech and, ultimately, the freedom of thought, has never been more intense.

“My father firmly believed in freedom, and Lachlan is absolutely committed to the cause. Self-serving bureaucracies are seeking to silence those who would question their provenance and purpose. Elites have open contempt for those who are not members of their rarefied class. Most of the media is in cahoots with those elites, peddling political narratives rather than pursuing the truth.

Rupert Murdoch in 1953, the year he returned to Australia to take up his position at News Limited.

“Our companies are communities, and I will be an active member of our community. I will be watching our broadcasts with a critical eye, reading our newspapers and websites and books with much interest, and reaching out to you with thoughts, ideas, and advice. When I visit your countries and companies, you can expect to see me in the office late on a Friday afternoon.”

Murdoch’s departure comes after a seven-decade career that was sparked by the legacy of his father, Sir Keith Murdoch, chairman of The Herald and Weekly Times and head of News Limited. He took control of News Limited in 1954 and has since become one of the most powerful media figures in the news and political landscape.

As the chairman of Fox Corporation (the parent company of Fox News) and News Corp (which publishes The Wall Street Journal and The New York Post), Murdoch is a particularly influential figure in Republican Party politics, and his decision to step down could have ripple effects as the US heads towards a presidential election next year with Trump as the current GOP frontrunner.

But his influence has also been fiercely criticised by those who believe it is a danger to democracy. Among them is former Australian Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd, now the Albanese government’s ambassador to the US, who once described him as an “arrogant cancer on our democracy”. Earlier this year, former Liberal prime minister Malcolm Turnbull described Murdoch as “Australia’s deadliest export”.

“I say this without any sense of hyperbole: I do not believe that there is any individual alive today that has done more damage to American democracy than Rupert Murdoch,” Turnbull told a forum in New York in May.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong, who is in New York to address the UN General Assembly on Friday, said she did not wish to “engage in commentary at this stage, and with anybody’s retirement the appropriate thing is to wish them well.”

“Any fair-minded observer might say that some of the News Limited papers might not exactly be cheerleaders of the Labor Party, but that’s exactly what happens in a democracy. I wish him well for his retirement,” she said.

Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters for America, was far more scathing on Thursday, saying that Murdoch, who is now an American citizen, had “created a uniquely destructive force in American democracy and public life, one that ushered in an era of division where racist and post-truth politics thrive”.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham lauded Rupert Murdoch’s career, while praising Lachlan’s new role as a chairman as “indeed good news for conservatives and independent-minded Americans”.

“Under Rupert Murdoch’s leadership, Fox News has become a force in American politics,” Graham tweeted. “He gave voice to millions of Americans who were routinely left behind by the overwhelmingly liberal mainstream media.”

In a statement, Lachlan Murdoch congratulated his father on “a remarkable 70-year career”.

“We thank him for his vision, his pioneering spirit, his steadfast determination, and the enduring legacy he leaves to the companies he founded and countless people he has impacted. We are grateful that he will serve as Chairman Emeritus and know he will continue to provide valued counsel to both companies.”

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