Lived and died by scandal – a phrase that sums up the history of the News of the World. Overwhelmed by the furore caused by the hacking of mobile phone messages, the leading tabloid abruptly stopped the presses forever on Sunday after 168 years, bidding farewell to its 7.5 million readers. It was a decision taken by Rupert Murdoch, CEO of News Corp, who purchased the paper in 1968.
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Back then, the Australian who was born in 1931 and went to Oxford University, was determined to build a media empire based on popular journalism. A year later in 1969 he bought The Sun newspaper, transforming it from a broadsheet to a tabloid using his ‘sex and sensation’ formula. The Sun’s first topless Page 3 girl appeared in 1970. Murdoch also saved on costs by using the same printing presses for both papers.
In 1981 came the acquisitions of the Times and Sunday Times. Murdoch was now at the head of a UK media empire – both accused of political manipulation and admired for his vision and taste for commercial risks.
His group, News Corporation, continued to develop on both sides of the Atlantic and across all possible media. By 1993 he was an industry leader, said media analyst Christopher Dixon:
“There is no question that News Corp is at the leading edge of creating a global media empire across a variety of platforms – whether they be in newspapers, motion pictures or television. Clearly News Corp is going to be at the cutting edge of becoming the first transnational media delivery system.”
The Murdoch empire is well represented across the globe except for Africa. In the USA, News Corp has the FOX group, the tabloid and sensationalist New York Post and the influential Wall Street Journal.
Its European influence is mainly in the UK, with its two remaining newspapers and its almost 40 per cent stake in the satellite broadcaster, Sky, which is also in Germany and Italy. In Russia the group has a presence in the advertising market.
There are interests in Chinese television and a media and entertainment broadcasting network in India. In Murdoch’s native Australia, his company owns newspapers and a publishing house.
At the head of a 42.6 billion euro empire, Rupert Murdoch was ranked 13th in the list of the most powerful personalities in the world by Forbes. Now Murdoch’s name is linked to scandal, as well as fortune and power.