AILSA CHANG, HOST:
James Murdoch is severing ties with NewsCorp, the publishing half of his family's media empire. Rupert Murdoch's younger son stepped down from the company board today, citing disagreements over, quote, "certain editorial content" and, quote, "other strategic decisions." NewsCorp's titles include The Wall Street Journal, The New York Post and the publisher HarperCollins as well as media in the U.K. and Australia. To talk about this latest development, we're joined now by NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik. Hey, David.
DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Hey, Ailsa.
CHANG: So do we even know what sorts of disagreements James Murdoch was referring to there?
FOLKENFLIK: Well, he sure didn't specify them, but it's not impossible to discern. James is more liberal than his father Rupert Murdoch - the founder, really, of this empire - and his brother Lachlan Murdoch, who - his older brother, who won a power struggle to lead the companies and to succeed their father even as Rupert's still hovering above it. You've seen these disputes come up within NewsCorp properties early this year during the wildfires this past winter in Australia. There was a lot of criticism of the coverage of the role climate change has played in the vast fires that Australia experienced.
FOLKENFLIK: James felt the need to kind of push back from that. More recently, the Wall Street Journal opinion board has come under severe fire from external critics and some of its own journalists for its characterization of climate change more recently, characterization of health issues and responses to the pandemic and for characterization of Black Lives Matter protesters, in some ways allowing people to present them perhaps as less than patriotic and really giving the president a lot of defense - a number of moments, I think you could argue, in recent weeks and months that have contributed to James' effort to distance. Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch just minutes ago put out a response shared with us that said, essentially, we wish James well in his new endeavors and appreciate his works. It is almost...
FOLKENFLIK: ...The kind of response you might give to a very junior employee.
CHANG: Yeah. Well, what role exactly has James Murdoch been playing at NewsCorp?
FOLKENFLIK: Well, Rupert Murdoch enjoyed playing his sons against each other, almost ignoring the possibility that his daughter Elisabeth might take over someday. But James Murdoch, for a time, was a top executive over TV issues in Asia. He performed a similar role in the U.K. over Sky Broadcasting. He was the chairman of NewsCorp when there was a huge scandal that exploded over the tapping of phones - mobile phones that was done on behalf of their tabloids there. But as a TV executive in Europe, he succeeded and was well-regarded. And he also played a significant role here in the U.S. at corporate headquarters until he lost this power struggle to his brother.
CHANG: Well, beyond what seems to be a pretty bitter family feud going on here, what would you say is the broader significance of James Murdoch's departure?
FOLKENFLIK: I think it's really hard not to read into this a larger condemnation of the Murdoch approach. And you've got to take Fox News into account here even though it's not technically part of NewsCorp. No outlet has done more to undermine questions of climate change science, to portray Black Lives Matter protesters unpatriotic, to question the patriotism of Democratic lawmakers. James Murdoch and his wife have contributed to environmental causes. They've contributed to Democratic causes, to the Biden campaign and other Democrats. And I think James Murdoch no longer wants to be associated with this approach...
FOLKENFLIK: ...As the general election nears.
CHANG: That is NPR's David Folkenflik. Thank you, David.
FOLKENFLIK: You bet.
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