James Murdoch doesn’t want to start another family media dynasty.
After leaving News Corp, the company that houses the Murdoch family’s publishing interests, James Murdoch aims to invest in digital businesses that fight the spread of disinformation online — criticism that James himself has leveled at some News Corp-owned outlets. In a lengthy sit-down interview with columnist Maureen Dowd for the New York Times, Murdoch discussed his departure from the family business, the Trump administration and why he doesn’t watch “Succession.”
Murdoch announced his resignation this summer, citing “disagreements over certain editorial content published by the Company’s news outlets and certain other strategic decisions.” He tells the New York Times that after his father refused to replace the late Roger Ailes, he knew there was no hope in reshaping Fox News.
“I reached the conclusion that you can venerate a contest of ideas, if you will, and we all do and that’s important,” Murdoch said in the interview. “But it shouldn’t be in a way that hides agendas. A contest of ideas shouldn’t be used to legitimize disinformation. And I think it’s often taken advantage of. And I think at great news organizations, the mission really should be to introduce fact to disperse doubt — not to sow doubt, to obscure fact, if you will.”
Murdoch revealed that he and his father have been “arguing about politics since [he] was a teenager.” As Donald Trump moved into the White House, the younger Murdoch grew increasingly uncomfortable with News Corp’s decisions.
James Murdoch also addressed the rumors that he was passed over for a top job at Disney as part of the $71.3 billion takeover of 21st Century Fox in 2019. Murdoch said he ultimately took himself out of the running to ensure he could be in charge of his own future.
“The idea, at my age, with a long career ahead of me, of going into a place where it’s a big corporate structure. You don’t really know what the future’s going to hold. And the other side is absolute self-determination and agency. It was a pretty simple choice,” Murdoch told the New York Times. “We never really even took talks very far at all about going to Disney because I informed them, because they were really trying to figure, ‘OK, what does the structure look like? Et cetera.’ I called Bob and said, ‘Look, you need to design that without me.’”
Now, Murdoch is investing his share of the family fortune in the arts by way of Tribeca Film Festival, Art Basel, Vice Media and a comic book company, as well as in start-ups combating the spread of disinformation. Quadrivium, the foundation he started with his wife, Kathryn, is supporting voter participation, democracy reform and fighting to stop the climate crisis. As a couple, they have donated $1.23 million to Joe Biden, and plan to vote for him in the election.
“I’m just concerned that the leadership that we have, to me, just seems characterized by callousness and a level of cruelty that I think is really dangerous and then it infects the population,” Murdoch said of the Trump administration.
Though HBO’s hit show “Succession” is said to be based on his family, Murdoch insisted that he has never watched the series and refuses to draw parallels. When asked how he resists the urge to watch, Murdoch said: “I think you’d find it really easy. The other thing is, the dramatization of family affairs is as old as anything. It’s always built in a certain construct, back in Shakespeare or back in Homer.”
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