Rupert Murdoch Faces His Bosses

At News Corp.'s Annual Shareholder Meeting

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NEW YORK ( -- News Corp. Chairman-CEO Rupert Murdoch hosted the company's annual general meeting this morning and faced a volley of tough questions from cranky shareholders about his personal political leanings and the indecent content airing across the company's TV ventures.
Rupert Murdoch
Rupert Murdoch Credit: AP

On business matters, however, Mr. Murdoch repeatedly said the media business is in a state of flux and that News Corp. was negotiating the new environment by investing early in emerging businesses, a clear reference to MySpace.

'Profound change'
"News Corp is in the midst of profound change affecting the whole media industry," Mr. Murdoch told shareholders. "It's about building the next generation of revenue sources. We invest early. ... There are a lot of changes going on, forced by new competition that old business models can't handle."

Mr. Murdoch said newspaper advertising was basically flat, even during a time of great economic prosperity. He attributed a large part of newspaper troubles in the U.S. to the fact that one retailer, namely Wal-Mart, was so dominant.

His company's U.S. newspaper, The New York Post, recently revamped its website, which led to a doubling of its online traffic. But he said further expansion plans were limited, because the Post was a "marginal business for us and we have to watch our costs."

On the prospects for cable network Fox Business News, Mr. Murdoch said he was "disappointed" the service wasn't on the air yet, but that he added that he expected to launch next year.

Praise for Google
He said the $900 million deal with Google to serve up ad space on MySpace "allies us with one of the great corporations of the digital age." And as for Google's acquisition of YouTube, "It depends on what they [Google] decide to do with it. Google's interest in it is for video search," he said.

As for broadcast TV revenue, he said, "Free broadcast [Fox] were up, others are down, but I can't claim we're up drastically. For the third quarter, advertising is up 6%."

In a question-and-answer period with reporters following the session with shareholders, Mr. Murdoch and News Corp. President Peter Chernin discussed digital ad revenue. Mr. Chernin noted that ad revenue across 10 News Corp. websites, including, were around $500 million.

When asked about News Corp.'s intention to protect its own copyright material on programming appropriated by web users who post to sites such as YouTube, Mr. Chernin responded: "Our position on copyright is that it is something that we watch very closely, but decisions haven't been made." He later added: "We're a defender of copyright and we comply with copyright," perhaps a reference to the fact that MySpace users also posted video to their profile pages.

Breakfast with Hillary
Shareholders asked repeatedly about News Corp.'s breakfast fundraiser for Sen. Hillary Clinton (D, N.Y.). Mr. Murdoch said he would have hosted a breakfast for her opponent had he asked. The meeting was attended by a shareholder who was also a representative of the Parents Television Council and who accused the company of airing shows that contained inappropriate content before 10 p.m. "That's a thoughtful criticism," Mr. Murdoch responded. But rebutted with, "All of those programs are broadcast after 10 p.m. and we do believe a lot of what is seen should be as much of interest to parents as ourselves."

With son Lachlan Murdoch in the audience, Mr. Murdoch was asked whether he wanted to discuss the succession plan, to which he responded, "No. Only that I intend to be here for many, many years."

The meeting began with a long tirade from an elderly shareholder about issues such as the $99 million News Corp. had spent on lawyers. Mr. Murdoch, who remained good-humored during the lengthy onslaught, replied to her, "I don't disagree with you. Perhaps you should join our negotiating team."
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