Murdoch crisis: the end of an empire?

The crisis facing News International poses profound questions not only for the UK holdings of News Corporation but for the global media corporation as a whole.

MajorCritical questions around the credibility of the organisation, its political influence, and its corporate structure are being raised and debated as never before. While this is especially intense in the UK, these issues are not confined to the UK.

Professor Tim Marjoribanks, from La Trobe University’s Graduate School of Management in the Faculty of Law and Management, is a long-term Murdoch watcher and author of a book on News Corporation.

He is a specialist in organisational behaviour, transformation and management practice, particular within the media industry, journalism, sport, and the use of new technologies.

In a context in which shareholders are expressing concerns about how the company is being run and political leaders are questioning its influence in society, Professor Marjoribanks says the crisis will hasten the need for succession planning for News Corporation.

‘It will be interesting to see whether succession will be outside the Murdoch family,’ he says.

‘The family’s tight control of the company makes this problematic given that the Murdoch family has about 40 per cent of voting stock. This puts the family in a very powerful position.’ Nevertheless, he says a space now exists where the company should seriously consider going outside the family for its future leadership.

Succession planning also raises serious questions about the future of newspapers within the organisation. According to Professor Marjoribanks,

‘However, even if leadership remains within the family, the next generation does not have that same attachment to newspapers.

‘One of the striking features about Rupert Murdoch is that he is a very devoted newspaper person – one of those people who, as they say, likes the ‘ink on his fingers’, says Professor Marjoribanks.

‘So one of the interesting developments will be to see whether the family retains a commitment to the large number of newspapers they have, or whether they move more into online media.’

Professor Marjoribanks concedes that if things get really difficult in the UK, the group could consider selling off many of its UK interests and focus more on the US market.

‘However, as long as Rupert is involved, I think they’ll keep their UK interests at least to some extent. Certainly in the future, the shape of the organisation could undergo some quite profound transformations.’
Professor Marjoribanks’ book, ‘News Corporation, technology and the workplace: global strategies, local change’ is published by Cambridge University Press.

The book examines the growth of News Corporation and its newspaper holdings in Britain, the United States and Australia and its influence as a major corporate actor on the world stage.

Professor Marjoribanks is also researching the role of news ombudsmen in media organisations, and is part of a team funded by an ARC Linkage Grant undertaking research on the media treatment and communication needs of Sudanese Australians.

For interviews and further comment, please contact Professor Marjoribanks on T
: +61 3 9479 3124; E: t.marjoribanks@latrobe.edu.au

For further media assistance please contact Ernest Raetz, T: 041 226 1919

 

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