Avoiding Murdoch’s Media Minefield

Posted: July 19th, 2011   |   Category: Industry News | Strategy

question mark iconLast year, I asked the question:  should media buyers say no?  It’s a challenge for anyone in this position, given the stress and pressure involved and does not have an easy answer.

In the wake of the growing scandal in Britain, the answer to that question seems to be getting more profound every day.  Many companies quickly backed out of advertising deals and as a media buyer, you may be forced to make similar considerations.

For those interested in saying no – either to clear their own conscience or in order to protect their clients from the perception that they’re supporting what’s happening in Britain – here’s a list of just some of the assets that belong to Rupert Murdoch and the News Corp media empire (source:  Care2.com, with a focus on US assets):

  • TV: Fox Broadcasting Company, Fox News Channel, Fox Kids Channel, Fox Business Network, Fox Classics, Fox Sports Net, FX, the National Geographic Channel, The Golf Channel, TV Guide Channel
  • Radio: Fox Sports Radio Network
  • Books: HarperCollins (which publishes JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis, Lemony Snicket, JG Ballard, and Neil Gaiman)
  • Magazines: TV Guide, The Weekly Standard, Maximum Golf, Barron’s Magazine
  • Newspapers: The New York Post, Wall Street Journal, The Times (UK), The Sun (UK), The Australian (AU), The Herald Sun (AU), The Advertiser (AU)
  • Websites: Foxsports.com, Hulu (part ownership), Scout.com, The Daily
  • Film studios: 20th Century Fox (Avatar, The Simpsons, Star Wars, X-Men, Die Hard, Night at the Museum), Fox Searchlight (Slumdog Millionaire, Juno, 127 Hours, Black Swan, Little Miss Sunshine)
  • Sports (part ownership): Los Angeles Lakers, Colorado Rockies, Australia and New Zealand’s National Rugby League

Obviously, there are a lot of good people with these organizations.  Punishing them financially may not make sense, but it’s important to ask yourself what kind of media you want.  Of course, cutting out Star Wars or the Simpsons will be frustrating, to say the least.

Therefore, a decision to limit your spend on these companies must be weighed against merit and what you think the best thing for your client will be.  But don’t just do it because it’s cheap or your boss told you to.

In the wake of this scandal, Canadian media buyers may have to expand the scope of their decisions to other media companies, particularly those that are going down the same path as News of the World.  While nothing of this magnitude has happened here, Kai Nagata quit his job with the CTV because of how things were evolving in his office and because he was asking more questions about his employer than the news happening around him.  He even cites Fox News in the US as part of his article about the decline of quality local journalism.

In Canada, another emerging problem is the recent history of mainstream companies earning massive revenues from federal ad programs.  As a coincidence, we get endorsements, rabid support for less-than-acceptable candidates and attacks on those who are just trying to do the right thing.

If you see this happening here, please think twice about making an investment for your clients and enabling this kind of behaviour.

It’s not productive for anyone.

Bill Wittur
Bottree Digital Services

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