One of the most significant dates in the history of the British press is the 2nd January 1969. Why? It was 43-years ago today that a certain 37-year old Australian called Rupert Murdoch beat Robert Maxwell to acquire the News of the World after a 12-month struggle for control.
Back in 1968, the fight to acquire the now defunct News of the World was fiercely fought. Murdoch only won in January 1969 when the largest shareholder, the Carr family who also ran the paper, joined forces with him to beat off the Maxwell bid, which had the support of another major shareholder, the Jackson family.
In the UK, he now owns News International, which includes The Sun (acquired in 1969 and now a seven-day operation following the closure of the News of the World), as well as The Times and Sunday Times (both acquired in 1981). In the mid-eighties he moved the papers to a new high-tech plant at Wapping, despite having made a deal-winning agreement with the print unions, promising fewer redundancies that his competitor (Maxwell again) when he acquired The Sun in 1981. It led to an infamous violent confrontation with the print unions, which he ultimately won.
“I am constantly amazed at the ease with which I entered British newspapers.”
Despite the bloody battle to buy his first British newspaper Murdoch would later remark, “I am constantly amazed at the ease with which I entered British newspapers.”
The satellite broadcaster, BskyB, forms the final piece of his UK business.
Due to more restrictive media ownership rules he became a US citizen in 1985 so he could invest in American television stations. He also owns the Twentieth Century Fox film studio, Dow Jones (inc. the Wall Street Journal) and the Harper Collins publishing empire with business on both sides of the Atlantic.
No one can question Murdoch’s long-standing commitment to, and investment in, newspaper journalism. Without him loss-making quality titles like The Times may have closed. You may have some questions about his motives and actions as publisher.
This rather excellent sketch from Fry and Laurie gives a sense of what Britain would have been like, sans Murdoch.
To read more about a responsible media, download our guide on the subject.