by Conor Friedersdorf
In the course of arguing that Glenn Beck isn't Rupert Murdoch's puppet, Reihan Salam makes a point worth remembering:
I have a little theory about Rupert Murdoch's media holdings. My theory is that his goal is to make as much money through his media holdings as possible. That is, I don't think he's amassed billions of dollars by accident. And I'm also guessing that he makes political donations on the basis of an assessment of his own interests as well as his political proclivities. Long-time Murdoch-watchers are aware of the role he played in Tony Blair's political rise, and his brief flirtation with Sen. Hillary Clinton. Does this change the fact that Murdoch is most likely a conservative of some kind? Of course not. But it should complicate our understanding of the man and his motivations.
Indeed, I'd submit that his own political proclivities matter very little to the substance of the various media outlets he owns. Consider this: MTV's political coverage, to the extent it has any, tends to be fairly left-of-center. Do you seriously believe that Sumner Redstone, the majority owner of National Amusements and, indirectly, MTV's owner Viacom is an enthusiastic left-winger who is bitterly opposed to "The Man"? Given that Sumner Redstone can make a pretty plausible claim to being "The Man" himself, my guess is that he recognizes that MTV is a for-profit enterprise that will either flatter the sensibilities of its youthful audience or go out of business.
In a similar vein, Fox News has been a commercial success because it connected with an audience that felt underserved, and that was eager for news and information that matched its sensibilities. Murdoch did not invent Fox News. Instead, Roger Ailes came to him with the idea, and he demanded a large amount of capital and near-total autonomy. And that's what he was given.
Even media outlets that don't make any money, like Culture11, the defunct start-up Web magazine where I worked, often don't reflect the particular political views of the people at the top of the business hierarchy (Bill Bennett, in that case). I'd be curious to know what publications and television programs Mr. Murdoch actually enjoys, and deems to be of high quality.