Rupert Murdoch

(b. 1931) Australian-born American publisher and media entrepreneur

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(1931– )

US publisher and media entrepreneur, born in Australia; founder and head of the News International Communications empire.

Murdoch was born in Melbourne, the son of the celebrated war correspondent and newspaper publisher Sir Keith Murdoch (1886–1952). After taking a degree at Oxford he worked as a subeditor on the Daily Express until 1952, when he returned to Australia to run the family newspapers. As owner of the Adelaide News he quickly hit on the formula that would become his hallmark, taking the paper radically downmarket with a heavy emphasis on scandal, show-business gossip, and sport. Sales rocketed, allowing him to obtain further titles in Sydney and Perth, which he subjected to a similar transformation.

Murdoch became a major figure in the British newspaper business with the acquisition of the News of the World (1969) and The Sun (1970). The latter became Britain's best-selling daily but in doing so incurred considerable disapproval for its aggressive right-wing populism and emphasis on sex. In 1981 Murdoch acquired the Times Newspaper Group amid much controversy. Five years later he pulled off an audacious coup by switching the papers' production to a new high-tech plant in east London without obtaining a union manning agreement. Although a violent dispute ensued, the power of the print unions was effectively broken and the British newspaper industry underwent a technological revolution that many considered long overdue.

In the 1980s Murdoch began to move into other areas of the communications industry, building up holdings in radio, TV, film, and publishing companies, chiefly in the USA. As the owner of Harper Collins he has a substantial stake in book publishing on both sides of the Atlantic. He became a US citizen for business purposes in 1985, the year he acquired 20th Century-Fox and a number of US television stations. In 1989 he launched the satellite television channel Sky (known as British Sky Broadcasting since its absorption of its main rival in 1990).

While some argue that Murdoch's effect on the newspaper industry has been bracing and salutary, others blame him for declining standards of taste and accuracy in popular journalism. There is also anxiety about the sheer number of communications outlets he now controls, a situation that some see as near-monopolistic.

Subjects: Marketing — Contemporary History (Post 1945).

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