Weekly Digest

The Fix Weekly Digest: Money, Ideology, and Oppression

Welcome to The Fix’s weekly news digest! Every Friday, we bring you five important news stories from the world of media — and try to put them in a wider context.

Last Friday, James Murdoch announced his resignation from the board of News Corp, a media giant whose influence spans over the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia. He cited “disagreements over certain editorial content published by the company’s news outlets and certain other strategic decisions” as the reason. 

News Corp controls numerous publications in the West, such as The Wall Street Journal in the US, The Sun and The Times in the UK, and a host of newspapers in Australia. The Murdoch family that controls News Corp also owns Fox News, the most popular cable network in the US. For many decades now, News Corp has been led by Rupert Murdoch, an 89-year-old media mogul remarkably influential in the West since at least the 1960s.

As The New York Times’s last-year profile argues, Murdoch’s “various news outlets have inexorably pushed the flow of history to the right across the Anglosphere, whether they were advocating for the United States and its allies to go to war in Iraq in 2003, undermining global efforts to combat climate change or vilifying people of color at home or from abroad…”

Given Rupert Murdoch’s advanced age, his media empire has also been a center of the succession battle between his two sons, Lachlan and James. In recent years, the more conservative Lachlan has won it, sidelining James, who is notable for his liberal views, such as support of aggressive fight with climate change.

James’ resignation from the board is a potent marker and a formal confirmation of this fact. As The Guardian’s Edward Helmore argues, it “paves way for News Corp to move further right”.

This week has brought at least two news stories that highlight issues with freedom of speech across the world, both in the COVID-19 context and in general.

In Russia, one of the country’s most notable independent newspapers Novaya Gazeta has faced ‘fake news’ administrative cases from the state censor after reporting about two previously-unreported coronavirus outbreaks – in the region of Chechnya and inside the Russian Army. According to Meduza, it is not the first time Russian media have been punished by the state for their coronavirus reporting.

In Mexico, the already grim number of killed journalists increased as journalist Pablo Morrugares, who reported on gang violence and had frequently received threats, was murdered in southern Mexico. As The Guardian reports, over 120 journalists were killed in Mexico over the last two decades. 

In one of July’s digest editions, we wrote about why Facebook ad boycott was unlikely to affect the company’s bottom line. This week has brought some proof that Facebook indeed has not felt financial suffering from the boycott.

As Axios reports, “Facebook beat Wall Street revenue expectations for the second quarter”, and the company also projects the growth of its ad business in July to be around the same as compared with 2019.

A boycott by some big companies can hit Facebook’s reputation (and it probably has), but it hardly affects the revenues for a platform essential to millions of small businesses.

This week, we have seen some new numbers on the pandemic’s impact on media advertising in the UK. As The Guardian reports, ad spending across the country’s media fell almost by 50% year-over-year in the period since the lockdown’s start until late June, from £2.3bn to £1.2bn.

The government has become the biggest advertiser. Public Health England increased its spending by 5,000% as compared with the previous year.

The United States is seeing a rise of women-oriented nonprofit newsrooms, Axios reports. As Axios’s Sara Fischer puts it, “women are pushing back against the gender imbalance in media by launching their own news nonprofits and focusing on topics many traditional news companies have long ignored”.

This week’s most prominent example is The 19th, a nonprofit publication devoted to women and politics. Its founders have attracted $8.5 million in donations (the fundraising campaign had started long before the pandemic), and The 19th is off to a good start. Its name refers to the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution, which granted women the right to vote, but its logo features an asterisk to denote that many non-White women have not been able to exercise this right.

(Interestingly, the publication’s big donor is Kathryn Murdoch, James Murdoch’s wife; she has vocally disagreed with the politics of the Murdoch family).

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