Author and NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik calls the News Corp CEO and Fox News founder "the most significant media tycoon the English-speaking world has ever known" and says the motivation for writing the book was to explore how one of the last great media barons has used his power in light of the bribery and hacking scandals surrounding his U.K. publications.
The book not only details the origins of Fox News, but how Murdoch went from an Australian newspaper giant to building the fourth big network in U.S. broadcasting with the birth of Fox in 1986.
Murdoch purchased TV stations in some of the nation's largest markets in 1985 before acquiring a majority stake in 20th Century Fox to lay the groundwork for his new network. After depending on edgier content like Cops, The Simpsons and Married with Children to establish an identity in the network's early days, Murdoch made the prescient decision to get into the NFL game.
"We’re a network now," Murdoch told Sports Illustrated after striking the deal to broadcast NFC games on Fox in 1993. "Like no other sport will do, the NFL will make us into a real network. In the future there will be 400 or 500 channels on cable, and ratings will be fragmented. But football on Sunday will have the same ratings, regardless of the number of channels. Football will not fragment."
From sports came the seeds of Fox News. Murdoch had swiped CBS's NFL rights. His next idea was to create an alternative to CBS's Sunday night news magazine 60 Minutes. As discussions about the news program evolved, Murdoch thought even bigger, and eventually Fox News was born – a niche news channel seeking an audience who felt the mainstream media were too liberal.
Folkenflik goes on to detail how many of the names associated with Fox News – Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and Roger Ailes, for example – became stalwarts of the network.
And, of course the book goes into some of the juicier aspects of Fox News.
According to liberal media watchdog Media Matters, the book sheds light on some allegedly shady practices during the early days of Fox News website. Reportedly, Fox News public relations staffers were under orders to flood comment sections of blog posts written about the site with pro-Fox News propaganda. Here’s the excerpt:
On the blogs, the fight was particularly fierce. Fox PR staffers were expected to counter not just negative and even neutral blog postings but the anti-Fox comments beneath them. One former staffer recalled using twenty different aliases to post pro-Fox rants. Another had one hundred. Several employees had to acquire a cell phone thumb drive to provide a wireless broadband connection that could not be traced back to a Fox News or News Corp account. Another used an AOL dial-up connection, even in the age of widespread broadband access, on the rationale it would be harder to pinpoint its origins. Old laptops were distributed for these cyber operations. Even blogs with minor followings were reviewed to ensure no claim went unchecked. [Murdoch's World, pg. 67]
According to Media Matters, Folkenflik cites four unnamed former Fox News employees as his sources on on the fake commenter practices.
Folkenflik says his book goes on to weigh Murdoch's biggest accomplishments and his influence on modern media as well as ponder what the media world will look like post-Murdoch.
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