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Rupert Murdoch: Let It Be

It's been hinted at for several years, and now the day has arrived: Rupert Murdoch stepped down as chair of Fox and News Corp. and handed the keys to the kingdom (the foxhole?) over to his son Lachlan. Pops will henceforth carry the title of chairman emeritus.

Before we address the significance of this news, allow us to first take note of one of the finest examples of self-delusion we've ever seen. Everyone knows how Murdoch made his money, and that he's run the same basic playbook in his home country of Australia, and in the U.K. and in the U.S. Nonetheless, in the internal memo Murdoch circulated announcing his retirement, he decreed:

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.

Yes, that's right. Thank goodness for Fox, which isn't in cahoots with political elites, and certainly would never dream of peddling political narratives rather than pursuing the truth. Age brings wisdom, or so they say, but it apparently doesn't bring self-awareness.

As to the significance of this news, well, we're writing an item because the Murdoch story was all over the place yesterday. However, we actually don't think it's very significant at all, for one small reason, one big reason, and one maybe reason.

The small reason is that Murdoch does not seem the type to retire, per se. It is true, by all accounts, that he's less engaged in the family business than he once was. However, he'll still have an official title, he still owns the stock, and it's his son who is running things. If he has thoughts about the direction of the business, or about any big financial decisions, they will be heard. Politico's Jack Shafer, who keeps a close eye on media maneuvering, agrees that this is just a retirement on paper, and not a major change in the structure of the organization.

The big reason, meanwhile, is that Murdoch has lost control of the narrative. Mediaite had a piece from Colby Hall last week headlined "Fox News Is More Powerful Than Trump. It Should Start Acting Like It." Maybe, in theory, Hall is right. In practice, Fox either doesn't have that power, or isn't willing to risk using it. Remember those halcyon days roughly 3 months ago when the channel tried to install Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) as the 2024 Republican presidential candidate? That was a train wreck, of course. Meanwhile, Donald Trump takes potshots at Fox all the time, while Fox is scared to say so much as "your tie is crooked, Mr. Trump." Murdoch and his media empire once had a seat at the table when it came to the direction of the Republican Party. Not anymore.

Finally, the maybe reason is that Fox has some serious financial problems. The company's core businesses (TV, cable, newspapers) are all in shrinking sectors of the economy. There's also a potential nine- or ten-figure settlement with Smartmatic. It is entirely possible that, sooner rather than later, the Murdoch family takes whatever poker chips it has left and leaves the game. Kara Swisher, who follows these things very closely (even more closely than Jack Shafer) went so far yesterday as to suggest a possible buyer for the Fox properties: Elon Musk. It's not crazy, and even if it was, when has that stopped Musk?

So that's the story, as we see it. Or, really, the non-story. (Z)

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