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‘Our deadliest export’: Turnbull unleashes on Murdoch

Murdoch resigns as head of News Corp and Fox News

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch has been likened to a Russian dictator and accused of enormously damaging democracy as Australian politicians reflect on his retirement.

The surprise move from the 92-year-old Australian-born billionaire leaves his son Lachlan firmly in line of succession at Fox and the rest of the media empire.

Murdoch will become chairman emeritus of the news network’s parent company, Fox Corp, and the News Corp media holdings while Lachlan will become chairman and CEO.

But former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull unleashed Murdoch’s “shocking” legacy and the “anger-tainment ecosystem” he’s created, suggesting he’d left America the most divided it’s been since the civil war.

“[Murdoch has] built a vast global media empire, and no doubt the business pages will give him credit for that, but he has done enormous damage to the democratic world,” Mr Turnbull told ABC News.

“Murdoch has been the largest voice in the English-speaking world – or the loudest voice, at any rate – to deny the reality of global warming and delay action to address it.”

Turnbull went a step further, comparing Murdoch to Russian president Vladimir Putin for driving “disinformation objectives” designed to “divide and enrage”.

“What Murdoch has done through Fox News, in order to ensure people remain engaged, is to make them angry, to rile them up to divide them, it has the same consequence,” the former Liberal leader told ABC Radio.

“I’m not suggesting that his motives are the same as Putin’s, but the outcome is essentially the same, to make people angry and divided and to turn against each other.”

Later on Friday, in comments about the 2020 US election at a function in New York, Turnbull went further.

“What we saw in this country was a government that was nearly overthrown in a coup promoted by the president – and in an environment that was enabled by Fox News and other right-wing media, promoting stuff they knew was untrue,” he said, in comments reported by the Nine newspapers.

“I say this without any sense of hyperbole: I do not believe that there is any individual alive today that has done more damage to American democracy than Rupert Murdoch. You might say [he’s] Australia’s deadliest export.”

Another former PM who has also been critical of Murdoch in recent years, Kevin Rudd, is yet to make any public comment on the announcement. Rudd, now Australia’s ambassador to the US, has previously joined Turnbull in calling for a royal commission into the Murdoch media empire.

Back in Australia, Treasurer Jim Chalmers was more tempered. He described Murdoch senior as one of the defining figures of global media and calling the announcement “very consequential”.

“Rupert Murdoch has been a very influential and indeed central figure in the global media landscape for some time now, this is the end of an era at News,” he told reporters.

Simon Birimingham, a Liberal senator for South Australia where Murdoch’s news empire began, described his career as “incredible”.

“Rupert Murdoch is arguably the most significant Australian businessman of our nation’s history in terms of impact on the global stage,” he told Sky News.

“Of course he’s also been controversial, and his legacy will be one that is assessed for many, many years to come, and that is a demonstration of the power and impact he has wielded.”

Foreign Minister Penny Wong reflected on Murdoch’s influence in Australian politics.

“Any fair-minded observer might say that some of the News Ltd papers might not exactly be cheerleaders of the Labor Party, but that’s what happens in a democracy,” she said.

Murdoch content didn’t follow “traditional journalistic practice” of representing a balanced view of a debate, Monash University journalism associate professor Shane Horman said.

“In establishing Fox News, he provided the template for a post-truth world where winning the debate must always triumph over the public good of informing societies,” he said.

– with AAP

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