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Federal filings show that News Corp. gave $1 million to the Republican Governors Association earlier this summer. It would be a notable gift from any company.
But as NPR's David Folkenflik reports, Rupert Murdoch's media empire is hardly just any corporation.
DAVID FOLKENFLIK: News Corp. owns the Fox News Channel, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, and more than two dozen local television stations - many with news programs. Murdoch is known for his business savvy and his largely conservative political views. Asked by a liberal activist this year at the National Press Club whether talk show hosts from his channel should support such political movements as the Tea Party, Murdoch replied...
Mr. RUPERT MURDOCH (Owner, News Corp.): No, I dont think we should be supporting the Tea Party or any other party. But I'd like to investigate what you're saying before I condemn anyone.
FOLKENFLIK: Now, News Corp.'s million-dollar gift represents one of the largest single donations to any political party this election season.
Political gifts from corporations tend to be fairly balanced, to coin a phrase. Those gifts follow power so the guys in control tend to get more, but the money generally gets spread around so no one is totally shut-out.
For instance, this spring, GE - the owner of NBC and MSNBC - gave $105,000 to both the Republican and the Democratic governors' groups. But News Corp. gave not a dollar to the Democratic Governors group, according to the most recent records. Some observers say the company's actions are clearly in line with the ideological stance of its owner and its news outlets.
Sheila Krumholz is executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-profit research group.
Ms. SHEILA KRUMHOLZ (Executive Director, Center for Responsive Politic): It's a pretty bold move on the one hand. On the other hand, I think this is not all that surprising, given the very overt attitude and moves made by Rupert Murdoch and News Corp. over many years.
Mr. ERIC BURNS (Former Media Critic, Fox News): There is certainly no secret, not only that Fox News leans to the right, but if one has watched Fox News in the last couple years, there is evidence that it keeps leaning further and further to the right.
FOLKENFLIK: Thats Eric Burns, the former chief media critic for Fox News.
Fox has stockpiled conservative talent in recent years, adding the conservative Glenn Beck; dropping the liberal Alan Colmes; and hiring three plausible Republican presidential candidates, and two top aides to former President Bush, as paid commentators.
Burns says that Fox News shows once brought some balance to TV news by pursuing stories that were wrongly overlooked. Now, Burns says, it's harder to tell the difference between the channel's news and opinion programs.
Mr. BURNS: I dont think the million-dollar contribution will make Fox News Channel more right wing-oriented because for the most part, I dont see how it could be.
FOLKENFLIK: Officials at Fox News itself declined to comment, while News Corp.'s spokesman Jack Horner wouldnt talk on tape. But he rejected the notion that the gift in any way undercut the professional standing of its journalists. Horner said the company believed in the importance of free markets. and appreciated the Republican group's pro-business agenda.
News Corp.'s sprawling media empire generates regulatory questions at both the federal and local level. Yet this latest revelation revived complaints raised by the Obama administration last fall.
Here's what then-White House Communications Director Anita Dunn told NPR.
Ms. ANITA DUNN (Former Communications Director, White House): We see Fox right now as the source and the outlet for Republican Party talking points. And it's fine if thats, you know, how they want to build their business model. But we dont think we need to treat them as though they are a news organization, the way other news organizations here are treated.
FOLKENFLIK: Officials and editors at the Wall Street Journal, the jewel in Murdoch's crown, also would not comment for this story, though one political reporter said White House officials were already pointing to the News Corp. gift in conversations with the paper's reporters. The Journal covered the issue, though so far, it's been awfully hard to find on Fox.
David Folkenflik, NPR News.
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