Rupert Murdoch's withdrawal worries his British media

Rupert Murdoch's handover at the head of his empire leaves the group's British media, including the tabloid The Sun, in suspense, while his son Lachlan, who succeeds him, seems less attached to it

Rupert Murdoch's withdrawal worries his British media

Rupert Murdoch's handover at the head of his empire leaves the group's British media, including the tabloid The Sun, in suspense, while his son Lachlan, who succeeds him, seems less attached to it.

In the United Kingdom, in addition to The Sun, News Corp (one of the two legs, along with Fox Corp, of the 92-year-old billionaire's media conglomerate) owns influential conservative media outlets, such as the daily The Times and its Sunday edition The Sunday Times.

The group also launched the opinion channel TalkTV last year, a new broadcast channel for British Conservatives.

The announcement of the tycoon's stepping back, who will become honorary president of the two companies in mid-November, sparked numerous reactions in London, with Finance Minister Jeremy Hunt emphasizing for example his "determining influence on our lives".

Born in 1931 in Australia, Rupert Murdoch has a long-standing relationship with the United Kingdom. He studied at Oxford University in England, and returned in the late 1960s to buy the weekly News of the World and The Sun, both of which he led to success with their popular tabloid format , which allowed him to gain influence on British political life. His second wife, Anna Torv was a Scottish-born journalist.

Conversely, Lachlan Murdoch, 52, although born in the United Kingdom, was raised in the United States. He was then sent by his father to Australia to start his career within the group, where he spent several years and where he made several personal investments.

Until now he was president of Fox Corporation, parent company of Fox News, and was mainly in charge of the group's American affairs.

This handover thus raises questions about the place and future of the British media within the group.

“The inevitable appointment of Lachlan is bad news for the London branch (he has hardly ever been there in the last ten years),” Kelvin MacKenzie, former editor-in-chief of the Sun, predicted in a column for the Spectator on Thursday. the 1980s and 1990s.

This branch has lost its luster in recent years, amid digital transition and scandals, such as the hacking of the phones of personalities, including members of the royal family, which led to the closure in 2011 of News of the World, owned by Murdoch since 1969.

Long by far the most widely read daily newspaper in the United Kingdom, The Sun - which has not published sales figures for several years - would be closely followed, or even overtaken by its competitor the Daily Mail for its paper edition.

But it remains the 2nd largest media outlet on the internet, with more than 24 million readers each month, behind the essential BBC, according to recent data from the specialist site The Press Gazette.

Audiences for the young TalkTV remain confidential despite the recruitment of strong conservative figures, such as former parliamentarian Nadine Dorris, close to former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, or Piers Morgan, the former editor-in-chief of the now defunct News of The World.

Lachlan's potential connections, "that's not the question. The question is who owns the securities (shares)" of the group, however, underlines Alice Enders, researcher at the firm Enders Analysis, specializing in the media sector.

She recalls that Rupert Murdoch "is not going to leave completely. He remains the owner and retains control. (...) Lachlan will not be able to launch a major operation (sale or repurchase) without the approval of his father."

And "it would, for example, make no sense to separate from the Times", at a time when its direct competitor, the Telegraph, and the influential conservative magazine The Spectator, were put up for sale after unpaid debts from their parent company, property of the wealthy Barclay family, explains Alice Enders.

Rupert Murdoch's interest in buying The Spectator has also been mentioned by the British media.

22/09/2023 20:00:04 -       London (AFP) -       ©2023 AFP