From dictator to trailblazer, MPs react to Murdoch move

Alex Mitchell and Maeve Bannister |

Rupert Murdoch has been accused of creating an ‘anger-tainment ecosystem’ that has divided the US.
Rupert Murdoch has been accused of creating an ‘anger-tainment ecosystem’ that has divided the US.

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch has been likened to a Russian dictator and accused of enormously damaging democracy as Australian politicians reflect on his retirement.

The surprise move from the 92-year-old Australian billionaire leaves his son Lachlan firmly in line of succession at Fox and the rest of the media empire.

Mr Murdoch will become chairman emeritus of the news network’s parent company, Fox Corp, and the News Corp media holdings while Lachlan will become chairman and CEO.

But former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull lashed Mr Murdoch’s “shocking” legacy and the “anger-tainment ecosystem” he has created, suggesting he had left America the most divided it’s been since the civil war.

“(Murdoch has) built a vast global media empire, and no doubt the business pages will give him credit for that, but he has done enormous damage to the democratic world,” Mr Turnbull told ABC News.

“Murdoch has been the largest voice in the English-speaking world – or the loudest voice, at any rate – to deny the reality of global warming and delay action to address it.”

He went a step further, comparing Mr Murdoch to Russian president Vladimir Putin for driving “disinformation objectives” designed to “divide and enrage”.

“What Murdoch has done through Fox News, in order to ensure people remain engaged, is to make them angry, to rile them up to divide them, it has the same consequence,” the former Liberal leader told ABC Radio.

“I’m not suggesting that his motives are the same as Putin’s, but the outcome is essentially the same, to make people angry and divided and to turn against each other.”

Treasurer Jim Chalmers was more tempered in his reaction, describing Mr Murdoch senior as one of the defining figures of global media and calling the announcement “very consequential”.

“Rupert Murdoch has been a very influential and indeed central figure in the global media landscape for some time now, this is the end of an era at News,” he said.

Former Liberal prime minister John Howard was highly complimentary, saying Mr Murdoch had struck a blow for free speech when he stared down British print unions in the 1980s.

“Rupert Murdoch is the most talented and influential world business figure Australia has produced,” he said.

“He changed the face of media and was always intensely interested in the battle of ideas.”

Simon Birmingham, a Liberal senator for South Australia where Mr Murdoch’s news empire began, described his career as incredible.

“Rupert Murdoch is arguably the most significant Australian businessman of our nation’s history in terms of impact on the global stage,” he told Sky News.

“Of course he’s also been controversial, and his legacy will be one that is assessed for many, many years to come and that is a demonstration of the power and impact he has wielded.”

Foreign Minister Penny Wong reflected on Murdoch’s influence in Australian politics.

“Any fair-minded observer might say that some of the News Limited papers might not exactly be cheerleaders of the Labor Party, but that’s what happens in a democracy,” she said.

Murdoch content didn’t follow “traditional journalistic practice” of representing a balanced view of a debate, Monash University journalism associate professor Shane Horman said.

“In establishing Fox News, he provided the template for a post-truth world where winning the debate must always triumph over the public good of informing societies,” he said.