8. News Corp. Ltd./21st Century Fox

Revenues 2018: $ 39.420 billion (€ 33.380 billion)

Overview

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Rupert Murdoch’s New Corp. includes high-circulation tabloid papers such as the ‘Sun’ in Great Britain, sports and news channels stretching from India over Europe to Latin America, film productions, and since 2007, the renowned Dow Jones imprint (“Wall Street Journal”. As of today, Fox news has become the most important gearwheel of the company, being the most successful commercial news channel in the United States. Ever since the payment of one million US Dollars to the Republican Governors Association in 2010, News Corp. has been considered one of the Republican Party’s biggest supporters as well. In the wake of the 2011- phone-hacking scandal at the British newspaper “News of the World” the size and influence of Murdoch’s empire have come under scrutiny.

General Information

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Head office:
1211 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10036, USA
Telefon: 001 212-852-7000
Telefax: 001 212-852-7145
Website: newscorp.com; 21cf.com

Branches: Newspapers, book publishing, film production, television, online properties
Legal form: Public Company
Financial year: 07/01 - 06/30
Founding years: 1952, 2013 (Spin-Off)

 

Basic economic data 21st Century Fox (US$ m)
20182017201620152014
Revenue30,40028,50027,32628,98731,867
Net profit4,4642,9522,7558,3064,514
Share price (US$, year end) 47.7834.1227.2527.2336.89
Employees22,40021,70021,50020,50027,000
Basic economic data News Corp. (US$ m)
20182017201620152014
Revenue9,0248,1398,2928,633 8,574
Net profit (loss)(1,514)(738)179(147)239
Share price (US$, year end) 11.4616.6511.8013.9615.08
Employees28,00026,00024,00025,00022,000

Executives and Directors

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News Corp.

Management:

  • Rupert Murdoch, Executive Chairman
  • Lachlan Murdoch, Co-Chairman
  • Robert Thomson, Chief Executive
  • Susan Panuccio, Chief Financial Officer
  • Antoinette Bush, Global Head of Government Affairs
  • Anoushka Healy, Chief Strategy Officer
  • Jim Kennedy, Chief Communications Officer
  • David Pitofsky, General Counsel
  • Marc Frons, Chief Technology Officer
  • Dana Ritzcovan, Chief Human Resources Officer
  • Tracey Fellows, Acting CEO, Move, Inc. & President, Global Digital Real Estate

 Board of Directors:

  • K. Rupert Murdoch, News Corp
  • Lachlan Murdoch, News Corp
  • Peter L. Barnes, News Corp
  • Kelly Ayotte, Former United States Senator for the State of New Hampshire
  • José María Aznar, President, Foundation for Social Studies and Analysis
    Former President of Spain
  • Natalie Bancroft, News Corp
  • Joel I. Klein, Oscar Insurance Corporation
  • James R. Murdoch, Lupa Systems
  • Ana Paula Pessoa, Kunumi AI
  • Masrorr Siddiqui, Naya Capital Management UK Limited
  • Robert J. Thomson, News Corp

 

21st Century Fox

Management:

  • K. Rupert Murdoch, Executive Chairman
  • Lachlan K. Murdoch, Executive Chairman
  • James R. Murdoch, Chief Executive Officer
  • John P. Nallen, Senior Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer
  • Gerson Zweifach, Senior Executive Vice President & Group General Counsel, Chief Compliance Officer
  • Julie Henderson, Executive Vice President, Chief Communications Officer
  • Janet Nova, Executive Vice President, Deputy General Counsel
  • Chip Smith, Executive Vice President, Government Affairs
  • Reed Nolte, Senior Vice President, Investor Relations
  • Paul Cheesebrough, Chief Technology Officer
  • Thomas Gassmeier, Executive Vice President, Chief Human Resources Officer

 Board of Directors:

  • Rupert Murdoch
  • Chase Carey
  • Sir Roderick I. Eddington, J.P. Morgan
  • Delphine Arnault, Louis Vuitton Malletier
  • James W. Breyer, Accel Partners
  • David Devoe
  • Viet Dinh, Georgetown University
  • James Murdoch
  • Lachlan Murdoch
  • Jacques Nasser, One Equity Partners
  • Robert Silberman, Strayer Education
  • Tidjane Thiam, Prudential plc
  • Jeffrey W. Ubben, ValueAct Capital

History

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The cradle of the News Corporation was in Australia: After studying at Oxford and - probably far more important for his later career - a job as a junior reporter for the London "Daily Mail", 21-year-old Rupert Murdoch inherited the ailing "Adelaide News" from his father Sir Keith Murdoch in 1952. When a little later the publisher of the overpowering local competitor title wanted to take over the "Adelaide News" at a favourable price, the young Rupert showed his teeth for the first time and applied a tactic that he was to repeat 40 years later with similar resounding success on the British press market: he lowered the price. The competition was asleep, lost its readers in droves and a little later had to sell to Murdoch. In 1964 Murdoch founded the first nationwide Australian daily newspaper, and in 1968 he made a breakthrough in Great Britain. Here he first bought the mass newspapers "News of the World" and "The Sun", which he converted into popular conservative sensationalist titles. The Page Three Girl caused a sensation and is probably one of the reasons why Rupert, unlike his not so important father Sir Keith, has remained without a knighthood to this day.

In 1973, since the purchase of the "San Antonio Express News", Murdoch made his first foray into the US media market. The first highlight of his US career was the takeover of the weakening "New York Post" in 1976, where Murdoch was also able to increase circulation considerably in a short time with the "Sun" tactic. It was not until 1979 that the official birth of today's News Corporation took place. In 1980 Murdoch took over the London "Times" and the "Sunday Times", the first quality newspapers of world format, later other newspapers were added in Australia and the USA. News Corp. remained a pure publishing giant until 1986. With the takeover of the Twentieth-Century-Fox film studios Murdoch entered the audiovisual terrain for the first time. Excluded from the American TV market as an Australian-British, Murdoch swore an oath to the American Constitution in 1986, immediately bought six local TV stations and used them to create the nucleus of Fox Broadcasting, the first nationwide TV network since 1948. In 1989, Europe's first satellite television Sky Television went on air in Great Britain. After 18 months, Sky merged with the unsuccessful British Satellite Broadcasting to form BSkyB.

Despite its involvement in the television market, News Corp. also continued to grow in the publishing sector. In the early 1990s the TV activities almost broke News Corp.'s neck: $7.6 billion in debt became due in the short term, some creditor banks became nervous and initially refused to reschedule. According to Murdoch biographer William Shawcross, News Corp. was close to liquidation. Murdoch is said to have saved the company with the proceeds from "Kevin Alone at Home", the Christmas blockbuster of his so far rather unsuccessful Twentieth Century Fox. However, the warning came through, News Corp. drastically limited new debt and ensured better cash flow in times of crisis. Murdoch was soon back on top and gradually took over the Asian satellite channel Star TV from 1993 onwards. In 1994, he also bought a 20-percent stake in the US broadcasting chain New World Communications, which in return added its ten stations to the Fox network. In early 1996 Murdoch took over New World completely and launched his own news channel Fox News as a competitor to CNN.

On 31 July 2007, the Bancroft publishing family announced that they had decided to accept Murdoch's offer to purchase the Dow Jones newspaper company, which also publishes the prestigious Wall Street Journal. In order to allay the concerns of some members of the owning family that Murdoch could exert too much influence on the editorial independence of the publisher's publications, declarations were made and assurances signed to prevent that. A prominent board of directors should also monitor journalistic independence.

In summer 2011, News Corp. parted ways with the social community MySpace. The start-up was acquired in 2005 for $580 million, at that time still considered the largest social network in the world. Initially, Murdoch believed he would be able to resell MySpace for six billion US dollars at some point. After users flocked to competitor Facebook due to technical weaknesses, internal leadership struggles and management errors, Murdoch also lost interest in the company. In July 2011, Myspace was sold for $35 million to a consortium consisting of online advertising marketer Specific Media and pop star Justin Timberlake.

The biggest scandal in the company's history was caused by a 2011 wiretap scandal at the tabloid "News of the World", which became known in its entirety. The newspaper had been hiring private detectives to hack into the mobile phones of British celebrities since 1998. Police officers were systematically bribed to obtain confidential information. The majority of the approximately 550 victims of the bugging operations settled out of court with News International against the payment of large sums of money (in total, News Corp. paid over one billion in damages). In July 2011, it was also discovered that News of the World hacked into the mobile phone of missing and later murdered teenager Milly Dowler and her family in 2002, thus systematically obstructing police investigations. In addition, more than 25 journalists working for the sister paper "The Sun" were temporarily arrested for bribery. Due to enormous public pressure, Murdoch and son James decided to take a radical step and closed down the 150-year-old newspaper. Despite negative publicity, Murdoch's handling of the scandal must be considered a success. In the 2014 trial, the lawyers were able to maintain the image that the News Corp. executives were unaware of all the illegal activities. Only the former deputy editor-in-chief and later spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron, Andy Coulson, was found guilty. On the other hand, editor-in-chief and Murdoch intimus Rebekah Brooks was acquitted. She returned to her former place of work in 2015 as head of News UK. 

Then, in summer 2013 News Corp. was split into two companies: a print and education arm (the new News Corporation) and a film and television group (21st Century Fox). According to Murdoch this was done to "unlock the true value of both companies and their different assets so that investors could benefit from the individual strategic opportunities that would result from more focused management of each business”. But it was certainly also about restoring the reputation damaged in the "News of the World" scandal.

Four years later, the next massive cut is looming. According to rumors, the Walt Disney Company confirms the plan to take over a large part of its competitor 21st Century Fox (such as the film studio 20th Century Fox, pay TV stations like FX Networks, Fox Sport Networks, National Geographic Partners) at the end of 2017. The acquisition process was completed in mid-2019. And 21st Century Fox became Fox Corporation (or "New Fox"), still controlled by the Murdoch family.

Management

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Keith Rupert Murdoch
The secret of Rupert Murdoch's success, according to biographer William Shawcross, is that he combines the instincts of a gambler with puritanical discipline. As an "apostle of global communication", he can reach 4.7 billion people, or three quarters of the world's population, through his television stations, newspapers and magazines.

A glance at the literature on Murdoch's rise reveals two opposing currents. Some authors, including Michael Wolff, author of probably the most influential Murdoch biography, argue that Murdoch has remained in his heart the reporter he was at the beginning of his career as local editor of an Australian newspaper. According to Wolff, Murdoch upholds journalistic ideals such as constant curiosity and independent research, and in this way has become one of the most successful media entrepreneurs in the world.

Other journalists claim the opposite. For author Bruce Page, all News Corp. papers are "pseudo newspapers", enriched with a "kitsch ideology" and pretended anti-establishment rhetoric. With his documentary "Outfoxed", Robert Greenwald has shown how "Fox News" mixes reporting and commentary, initiates character assassination campaigns against liberal politicians and activists and sells the permanent propagation of right-wing ideologies as "fair and balanced". For Greenwald it is clear: Rupert Murdoch is waging a war against serious journalism.

The picture drawn by Murdoch himself of a man from a small background who fights against elitist circles and the ruling power structures on behalf of the subproletariat is open to doubt. His family was part of the post-colonial upper class of Australia. Murdoch's parents sent his son to the elite university of Oxford. Throughout his career, he always sought contact with the highest political leaders. Margaret Thatcher's visits to the editorial offices of the British "Sun", where she drank whiskey with Murdoch, are legendary in this context.

His exact political position remains unclear. His alliances with political powerholders seem arbitrary. Among the politicians he favours, to whom he has sought close proximity in the past in order to improve the media-political framework conditions, are personalities such as Tony Blair, John Major, Ronald Reagan and Deng Xiaoping. However, in June 2015 Murdoch retired from the day-to-day operations of 21st Century Fox, leaving the field to his sons James (CEO) and Lachlan (Executive Co-Chairman). But: As a great influencer, Rupert Murdoch could not resist getting involved in the opinion making process prior to the Brexit vote in the summer of 2016.

Murdoch's agenda was: Brexiteer, conservative, anti-European, anti-German and anti-French. A quotation he was given, later denied by him (e.g. in the Guardian): “When I go into Downing Street, they do what I say; when I go to Brussels, they take no notice.” About a meeting with Murdoch before the 1997 general election, then Prime Minister John Major said: "He made it clear that he did not like my European policy. He wanted me to change that. Otherwise his newspapers could not and would no longer support the conservative government. As far as I remember, there was no mention of "editorial independence". He only ever spoke of "we" when it came to his newspapers. " Further: "Afterwards we both kept our word, we both did not deviate from our line. Mr. Murdoch's papers then actually turned against the conservatives. It came as no surprise to me that shortly after our meeting he announced his support for Labour." Three months later: New Labour won the election with a landslide victory and Tony Blair became Prime Minister. And as for the Brexit: Murdoch's The SUN titled on 22.6.2016 (day before the referendum): "The Sun says: Support the Brexit! This is the choice of our life. Our LAST chance to free ourselves from the undemocratic Brussels machine."


James and Lachlan Murdoch
Because the two older daughters were not interested in larger tasks in the company, only the youngest son James (born 1972) remained as the favoured heir to the Murdoch family throne for a long time. He was the CEO of BSkyB, the UK's digital pay television company, and turned the company into one of the most successful commercial TV stations in the UK. In 2016 he became Chairman of Sky, a position he relinquished after the sale of Sky to Comcast in October 2018.

For a long time, observers had assumed that Murdoch's eldest son Lachlan (born in 1971) would retire from the company after he resigned from all offices in 2005 and founded his own production and investment companies, NOVA and Illyria, respectively. But in the spring of 2014, he rose to non-executive co-chair of News Corp. and 21st Century Fox, becoming his father's confidant again. Most recently, following the sale of 21st Century Fox to Disney in March 2019, Lachlan Murdoch became Chairman and CEO of Fox Corporation.

Business Units

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The News Corp. activities are registered in each country as a separate company with additional sub-companies. In June 2012, Murdoch and News Corps' operational chief Chase Carey decided to spin off the newspaper, book and education businesses from the far more profitable film and television segment. The latter generates about two thirds of the Group's sales and 90 percent of its profits. After the spin-off was completed in summer 2013, Murdoch headed the newspaper company as Chairman and remained formally head of the film and television group. The newspaper division, however, was headed by Robert Thompson, previously editor-in-chief of the Wall Street Journal.

21st Century Fox

Television
With Fox News, the most widely viewed 24-hour news channel and Fox Business Network and Fox News Radio Network, the company reaches 94 million listeners in the USA. With Fox Sports Net, the Group operates the largest regional sports channel chain. The cable sports channel Fox Sports broadcasts college basketball and football, Champions League soccer, Nascar car racing and golf, among others. In addition, there are 28 regional TV stations as well as content agreements of the Fox chain with 207 other local stations. FX (as well as sister channel FXX) is the most important cable channel alongside National Geographic for broadcasting high-quality TV series (including "The Americans", "American Horror Story", "Fargo") and TV premieres of the 20th Century Fox movies. Fox also owns a third of the streaming portal Hulu.com.

Outside the USA, Fox controls numerous cable and sports channels in Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia. In Europe, 21st Century Fox holds a 39 percent stake in pay TV giant Sky. Other important brands are STAR India, the Indian streaming portal Hotstar (with more than 70 million users), Fox Pan American Sports und Fox Sports Asia.

Film and TV production
Twentieth Century Fox Film (TCFF) remains one of the largest Hollywood studios, bringing an average of 25 films to the cinemas each year. TCFF includes the two studios Twentieth Century Fox and Fox 2000, which produce blockbusters; the indie subsidiary Fox Searchlight Pictures, the animation studio Fox Animation and the international offshoot Fox International Production. The TV counterpart Twentieth Century Fox Televsion (TCFTV) produces TV series and formats for its own stations as well as for competitors. Fox's most important international TV production and distribution companies include a joint venture with the Endemol Shine Group and a 30 percent share in the Indian Tata Sky Group. Fox also holds a minority stake in VICE Media.


News Corp.

Newspapers
The News Corp. Newspaper business consists of the financial information service provider Dow Jones ("Wall Street Journal", Barron's, Marketwatch, Factiva), News Corp Australia ("The Australian", "The Daily Telegraph", "Herald Sun", "The Courier Mail" and "The Advertiser"), News UK ("The Sun" and "The Times") of the New York Post and the News America Marketing, which generates its revenues by publishing newspaper coupons for food products and placing advertising material within supermarkets.

Books
News Corp. controls HarperCollins, the second largest book publisher in the world, which includes subsidiaries Avon, William Morrow, Zondervan, Thomas Nelson and Harlequin Enterprises. Together they hold the rights to over 300,000 titles.

Television
Fox Sports Australia is the only chain of TV stations that operates under the umbrella of News Corp. (and not 21st Century Fox).

Education
With Amplify, News Corp. entered the growing market for digital educational media under the supervision of US education policymaker Joel Klein. Amplify produces tablet-based learning software for teachers and students.

Commitment in Europe

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Following a complete withdrawal from Eastern Europe (Bulgaria, Latvia, Serbia and Poland) completed at the beginning of 2010, News Corp.'s business activities in Europe are primarily focused on Germany, the UK and Italy.

Germany
Rupert Murdoch has had bad experiences on the German market. In 1991, just a few months after reunification, he and Hubert Burda launched the tabloid "Super" for the new federal states with the aim of competing with the "Bild" tabloid, especially on the East German market. In 1992 the project was already buried; "Super" had missed expectations. Murdoch also had little luck with his involvement in German television. He soon sold his holdings in the stations Vox (Bertelsmann) and TM3 (Kirch Group). The millions he had invested in a stake in the pay-TV channel Premiere were also quickly gone. His partner Leo Kirch filed for insolvency in 2002. In the course of Kirch's demise, Murdoch had to write off around 1.7 billion euros.

But Murdoch did not give up. In January 2008, he again bought 14.58 percent of the shares in Premiere (now Sky) from the former owner Unity Media. The stake was increased to 54.5 percent between 2008 and 2013. After years of losses, however, the situation at Sky improved significantly - above all thanks to the broadcasting rights to the German Soccer League.

Great Britain
In addition to various British daily newspapers (including "The Sun" and "The London Times"), the core of News Corp's commitment in Great Britain is the satellite broadcaster BskyB (now Sky), whose complete takeover (News Corp. holds only 39 percent) was put on hold due to the wiretapping scandal. In the course of the Leveson Inquiry, the committee investigating the wiretapping scandal, emails came to light suggesting that Minister of Culture Jeremy Hunt, together with a News Corp lobbyist, had conspired behind closed doors to support the complete takeover by Murdoch. Of course, the broadcasting rights to the British Premiere League, which the company has held for years, are of enormous importance to Sky.

Consolidation of the European pay-TV market
In May 2014, Murdoch spun off the European pay TV segment of 21st Century Fox. BskyB took over Fox's shares in Sky Deutschland (estimated value: around three billion euros) and Sky Italia (one hundred percent, five billion). In this way, BskyB, rebranded as Sky in November 2014, advanced to become a pan-European pay-TV giant, while Fox was able to concentrate entirely on the production of TV and film content.

Commitment in Asia

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According to the 2018 annual report, News Corp. generated over a third of its sales in the Australasian region. Examples of activities:

China
In one of his rare interviews, Murdoch likes to stress the power of the big media to beat dictatorships through information. But as soon as the economic interests of News Corp. demand it, he himself stands on the side of the powerful and tyrannical. When BBC World's news program (broadcast throughout Asia via Murdoch's Asia2Sat) became a thorn in the side of the Chinese party leaders and when they threatened consequences for Murdoch's Star TV, he simply took the BBC off the satellite. This attitude is still a guarantee for Murdoch's success in the Chinese market today: The joint venture partner for the online services is the communist party newspaper, his partners at Phoenix Satellite Television are, in the eyes of the Beijing leadership, well-liked businessmen and ex-military. When the Chinese head of state Jiang Zemin visited Great Britain in 1999, the Murdoch press reported exaggeratedly benevolently and left out the subject of human rights.

India
In India, News Corp. has already invested more than two billion US dollars since 1993. Murdoch operates 13 television stations there, including the market leader Star India Plus, which broadcasts a Hindi-language program. Further investments were made in September 2008: Five more television stations were launched, two of them in the languages Marathi and Gujarati. In addition, the Fox Star Studios were set up to distribute Hollywood films in India and to produce independent Bollywood works.

Turkey
Murdoch is also interested in the Turkish television market. In July 2006 he and his business partner Achmet Ertegün acquired a majority stake in the private broadcaster TGRT for 77 million euros. TGRT is part of the Ihlas Group, which in turn is one of the largest media holdings in Turkey and operates various Turkish Fox channels.

Saudi-Arabia
In February 2010, News Corp. acquired a nine percent stake in the Saudi media group Rotana for US$70 million. The company operates television stations and record companies and controls a significant portion of the Egyptian-based film production. In the long term, News Corp. intends to enter the production of Arabic language content. It is therefore conceivable that an Arabic version of Fox News will be launched as competition to Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya.

United Arab Emirates
In May 2012, the Arabic news channel Sky News Arabia went on air in the UAE. The station was the result of a partnership between BskyB and the Abu Dhabi Investment Corp. of Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahayan, who also owns the British football club Manchester City.

Australia
In his home country, Murdoch controls almost three quarters of the entire print sector, including the leading daily newspapers in four major Australian cities.

Current Developments

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Murdoch's clinging to the newspaper business was long interpreted as a senile stubbornness. If News Corp. continued to stick to chronically loss-making media such as the "New York Post" or the British "Times", shareholders complained, the profitable film and television business would suffer. The spin-off of the newspaper business announced in 2012 was therefore received with relief within the Group.

How Rupert Murdoch plans his own future is still unclear, despite his advanced age (he was born in 1931). His retirement has often been predicted. For example after his cancer in 2000, combined with high losses in the News Corp. share price. He did not resign and defeated the disease. Or after the News of the World scandal. When summoned before the British Parliament, Murdoch said he was not responsible and did not intend to resign as head of News Corp. And he didn’t. Then in January 2018 the severe back dislocation that the then 86 year old on the sailing yacht of his son Lachlan suffered. Immediately there was speculation that the deal with Disney (i.e. the sale of 21st Century Fox) might fail. But again Murdoch recovered, the Disney deal took place.

He likes to point out that his mother has turned 104 years old. And besides: the question of the crown prince/successor has not yet been finally decided.

Further Reading

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» Arsenault, Amelia/Castells, Manuel 2008: Switching Power: Rupert Murdoch and the Global Business of Media Politics: A Sociological Analysis, in: International Sociology, July 2008, Vol. 23(4): S. 488–513.

» Barthel, Nadine 2008: Murdoch, Keith Rupert. In: Hachmeister, Lutz (Hrsg.): Grundlagen der Medienpolitik. DVA, München, S. 272-277.

» Chenoweth, Neil 2002: Rupert Murdoch: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Media Wizard, Crown Business, New York.

» Chenoweth, Neil 2012: Murdoch's Pirates: Before the Phone Hacking, There Was Rupert's pay-TV skullduggery, Allen & Unvwin, Sydney.

» Crainer, Stuart 2001: Big Shots. Business the Rupert Murdoch Way. Capstone, Mankato.

» Ellison, Sarah 2010: War At The Wall Street Journal. Inside The Struggle To Control an American Business Empire. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston.

» Folkenflik, David 2013: Murdoch's World. The Last of the Old Media Empires. Perseus Books, London.

» Page, Bruce 2004: The Murdoch Archipelago. Pocket Books, London.

» Shawcross, William 1997: Murdoch. The Making of a Media Empire. Simon & Schuster, New York.

» Sherman, Gabriel 2014: The Loudest Voice in the Room: How the Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes Built Fox News--and Divided a Country. Random House, New York.

» Wolff, Michael 2008: The Man Who Owns the News: Inside the Secret World of Rupert Murdoch. Broadway, New York.

Content

Institute of Media and Communications Policy

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Germany's Federal Agency for Civic Education,

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the city of Cologne, Germany,