Daily Bulletin


News

  • Written by Nick Richardson, Adjunct Professor of Journalism, La Trobe University

Of all the words written about Rupert Murdoch, “boring” is not one of them. The media mogul has been the object of fascination for six decades, after he followed his father Sir Keith in to the newspaper business.

Family dynasties in newspapers are not new – there were the Harmsworths in the UK; the Hearsts, Grahams and Sulzbergers in the USA; and the Packers and Fairfaxes as well as the Murdochs in Australia.

But Murdoch has exercised a particular fascination: the almost irresistible core of a family with the gloss of celebrity, the heavy aroma of money and the unmistakable aura of power.

No wonder directors, screenwriters and producers continue to find inspiration in the Murdoch family.

Family sagas

The dynastic shenanigans of the Royal Family have generated volumes of stories, films and television. And, let’s face it, The Godfather is really a family story, even if it’s about a family that lies, extorts and murders.

But what makes the Murdoch story such a compelling template for television drama is the place the media – and in particular the Murdoch media – holds in our society. The media occupies one of the most contested roles in our democracies, and Murdoch has become a lightning rod for fierce opinions.

Read more: How can we restore trust in media? Fewer biases and conflicts of interest, a new study shows

Adding extra bite is the family jostling for their father’s benediction to inherit the company carrying their DNA. This becomes more urgent as the patriarch ages and the offspring start to give their ambition free rein.

It isn’t surprising screenwriters see the attraction of such grand themes.

Most recently on the small screen, we’ve seen the miniseries MotherFatherSon (2019) with Richard Gere as an American owner of a British newspaper with the full set of dysfunctional family relationships. Gere laments his son lacks ruthless drive, and tragedy follows when the son’s drug habit spirals out of control.

Then there’s Succession (2018–), which, by the potent assembling of family ambition around patriarch Logan Roy’s US media business, comes closest to mirroring what we think we know about the Murdoch family’s internal dynamics.

Roy is from Dundee in Scotland: the classic outsider, an inescapable parallel with Murdoch’s Australian roots. He has carved out a controversial place for himself in the US media but his real skill seems to be setting his deeply flawed children against each other for the right to run the company.

Dramas surrounding the Murdoch family follow the natural arc of so many compelling stories: how great wealth is built up over generations, how power steadily grows and demands to be recognised and rewarded.

The past two decades have seen some of Murdoch’s British newspapers implicated in a phone hacking scandal, a string of sexual harassment cases at his Fox US cable TV network (made in to their own screen drama in 2019’s Bombshell), and this year, the decision by son James to resign from the News Corp board because of “disagreements” on editorial content and strategic decisions.

Celebrity, money and power: TVs obsession with the Murdoch family dynasty Bombshell told the story of sexual harassment at Fox News. Lionsgate

The appeal of this family saga shouldn’t surprise us.

Business before family

The commercial decline of mainstream media, the fragmenting of audiences, the rise of social media, the erosion of trust in established news brands and the polarisation of debate are all bound up with the Murdoch business and the family story.

Murdoch has been a proponent, instigator and beneficiary of these seismic changes, while also being increasingly commercially diminished by those forces. As such, the Murdoch family story is a powerful testimony of our times.

Two men in suits sit behind a wooden desk, giving evidence. James Murdoch and Rupert Murdoch giving evidence on the News of the World phone-hacking scandal, 2011. EPA/Press Association

There is one other irresistible ingredient in the mix: the search for a sense of family to normalise the rich and powerful.

In 1988, with circulation dropping and costs rising at afternoon broadsheet The Melbourne Herald, journalists became worried Murdoch would close the paper. The other staff and I naively reassured ourselves he wouldn’t do such a thing to the paper his father made great while his mother, Dame Elisabeth, was still alive.

We were wrong.

In 1990, The Herald was merged with the successful morning tabloid The Sun to become The Herald Sun. The old Herald’s identity slipped away — unlike Elisabeth, who remained robust and engaged with a range of notable philanthropic causes for another two decades.

This decision proved Murdoch is a pragmatist and a businessman who puts commercial interests first. There is no room for family sentiment.

Read more: Murdoch and his influence on Australian political life

“Rupert Murdoch has fuck all to do with it,” Brian Cox said after he accepted a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Roy. But whatever Cox might say, Murdoch’s call on The Herald sounds suspiciously like Logan Roy.

Celebrity, money and power: TVs obsession with the Murdoch family dynasty Brian Cox says Murdoch has nothing to do with Succession, but some similarities are uncanny. Zach Dilgard/HBO

In fiction and in reality, villains are usually far more interesting than the virtuous. When it comes to modern villains, few have been demonised more than Murdoch.

For those who prefer their picture of a media mogul to be captured in reality, the latest telling is a documentary series, The Rise of the Murdoch Dynasty, now on the ABC.

But if you watched Succession, you’ll already know the plot.

Authors: Nick Richardson, Adjunct Professor of Journalism, La Trobe University

Read more https://theconversation.com/celebrity-money-and-power-tvs-obsession-with-the-murdoch-family-dynasty-146113

Writers Wanted

Diverse spokespeople and humour: how the government's next ad campaign could boost COVID vaccine uptake

arrow_forward

Let's talk about what each uni does, but don't make it a choice between teaching or research

arrow_forward

The Advantages Of Using Betting Apps in Australia

arrow_forward

The Conversation
INTERWEBS DIGITAL AGENCY

Politics

Prime Minister interview with Karl Stefanovic and Allison Langdon

Karl Stefanovic: PM, good morning to you. Do you have blood on your hands?   PRIME MINISTER: No, it's obviously absurd. What we're doing here is we've got a temporary pause in place because we'v...

Karl Stefanovic and Allison Langdon - avatar Karl Stefanovic and Allison Langdon

Prime Minister Scott Morrison delivered Keynote Address at AFR Business Summit

Well, thank you all for the opportunity to come and be with you here today. Can I also acknowledge the Gadigal people, the Eora Nation, the elders past and present and future. Can I also acknowled...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Morrison Government commits record $9B to social security safety net

The Morrison Government is enhancing our social security safety net by increasing support for unemployed Australians while strengthening their obligations to search for work.   From March the ...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Business News

Boom in Aussies buying up restaurants, pubs, hotels and bars in regional centres

With international borders closed, regional Australia is seeing a dramatic surge in popularity as people move out of the cities and into their quaint communities. City slickers are looking for new...

Tess Sanders Lazarus - avatar Tess Sanders Lazarus

5 Signs Your Business Needs Onboarding Software

Onboarding software is the technology that automates a smooth transition for new hires from before the interview to the first day on the job. High-quality onboarding platforms feature a digital da...

Onboarded - avatar Onboarded

What Is COVID 19 Risk Assessment for Vulnerable Workers and Why Your Business Needs it

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, governments strongly advised people to just stay at home as a critical effort to stop the spread of the virus. This led to many businesses temporarily s...

NewsServices.com - avatar NewsServices.com