Fox, News Corp., Pull Plug on O.J. Simpson Project After a firestorm of criticism, News Corp. says it has canceled its plans to publish the O.J. Simpson book If I Did It. The book's release was to coincide with a two-part television special on Fox. Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corp., says it was an "ill-considered project."
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Fox, News Corp., Pull Plug on O.J. Simpson Project

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Fox, News Corp., Pull Plug on O.J. Simpson Project

Fox, News Corp., Pull Plug on O.J. Simpson Project

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Michele Norris.

Today, News Corporation head Rupert Murdoch cancelled plans to publish a book by O.J. Simpson explaining how he would have killed his ex-wife and her friend if he did it. Murdoch also cancelled the Fox broadcast of a two-hour interview of Simpson conducted by Judith Regan, the book's publisher and a significant figure within the Murdoch empire. The Simpson deal triggered a wave of criticism, and a growing number of Fox affiliates were refusing to carry the Simpson interview.

NPR's David Folkenflik joins us now in the studio to talk about all this. Now, Fox had to know that this would've been controversial. Why did they cancel, and why cancel now?

DAVID FOLKENFLIK: Very good questions. I mean, they cancelled now because there was, as you say, a growing number of local affiliates that were declining to run this show. They were actually in smaller markets, not necessarily such a big deal in and of itself, but there are two other major affiliate groups. One is the Tribune Company, based in Chicago. They were to announce within 24 to 48 hours would they carry it on their six stations, larger market stations.

In addition, Sinclair Broadcast Company up in Baltimore is also a very large owner of Fox affiliates. They have editorialized against the coarsening of culture in America and on television. This would be sort of dissonant with their values. There was some great concern about their carrying it. If those two companies don't carry it, it's really not a full Fox Network show.

NORRIS: So affiliates revolt after the fact. Did they actually think this would fly? Did they talk to the affiliates about this before they made this decision?

FOLKENFLIK: Well look, as you say, greatly controversial. But Fox kind of wants controversy. Fox courts controversy. Fox, A, is lagging very badly on the network ratings this fall, and, B, you know, it's the station that continually tests and exceeds our standards as a nation, that tries to figure out where we're willing to go. Don't forget, this was the network that once showed, you know, Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire, had great backlash against it but a lot of interest at the same time.

NORRIS: And the publisher of this book and the woman who actually conducted the interview, she, too, does not shy away from controversy.

FOLKENFLIK: No, she sort of embraces it with both arms in a tight bear hug. Judith Regan is a brass knuckled publisher based in New York. ReganBooks is a division of Harper Collins, itself owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. She saw this as a terrific coup. It would be a win/win for Murdoch, in a sense, and News Corp. in that they could promote the book on television and use the controversy to promote the Fox Network.

She then, after there was revulsion and the backlash, she then published a long note that made it to the Drudge Report and other Web sites, in which she said she was doing it because she took extremely seriously the issue of domestic abuse and battery. She said she had been battered by the father of her children, that it angered her and she wanted to sort of hold him responsible through this way. Clearly, she felt that this justified her involvement in this issue, or at least she was portraying it that way.

NORRIS: So Fox says no thank you. Is it possible that this might surface someplace else, another cable network?

FOLKENFLIK: It's eminently possible. Associates of Mr. Simpson have been quoted in a variety of media outlets saying, you know, this isn't just about the money, reportedly a $2 million deal. He sort of misses the spotlight. He misses the relevance factor. He used to be the staple on all the cable news shows. He hasn't come up lately. This is his way to both stick it in the eye of establishment America and show up back on the radar screen.

NORRIS: Thank you, David.

FOLKENFLIK: Good to be here.

NORRIS: NPR's David Folkenflik.

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