The Wall Street Journal After A Year With Murdoch

It was one year ago today that the Dow Jones Company, parent of the Wall Street Journal, agreed to be acquired by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. That transaction marked another step in the shrinking universe of media ownership. Specifically, it was the consumption of a revered publishing institution by a voracious international megalopoly. So what did the Bancroft family and other shareholders get for their greedy acquiescence to the power-mad mogul?

One year ago, the $60.00 per share offer from News Corp was about a 67% premium over Dow Jones’ then current price. Anyone who immediately liquidated their holdings following the transaction (which no one did) would have made a nice profit. Everyone else just watched as their fortunes shriveled up. The parent of Fox News has declined 60% in the past year. That means that the $5 billion dollars spent on Dow Jones has a current value of $2 billion. That’s not a particularly impressive performance.

As for Murdoch’s financial fate, rather than adding a $5 billion asset to his empire, his company’s market cap declined $32 billion – that’s more than six times what he spent on Dow Jones.

Now it would be easy to blame this all on the economic collapse, and certainly that plays a significant part. The only problem is that News Corp fell further than any of its competitors.

Company % Decline
News Corp 60
New York Times 55
Washington Post 50
Time Warner 44
Dow Jones Index 35
Disney 29

From a financial perspective, it doesn’t appear that the folks at Dow Jones made a particularly sound decision. While it’s impossible to say where these investments would be had News Corp not come along, it seems that they would have done no worse than the rest of the field. The difference is that they would still have their independence. They would not have had their publisher replaced by a Murdoch loyalist from England. And they would not have been ordered to shorten their stories and shift their focus from business to general news so that Murdoch could taunt his enemies at the New York Times (which he is also now rumored to fancy).

Murdoch’s business prowess is widely exaggerated. His New York Post has lost money for the past decade – the whole time he has owned it. And his celebrated purchase of MySpace when it was the unchallenged leader in social networking, hasn’t really worked out so well. MySpace is now second to a surging Facebook. Fox News itself is consistently the slowest growing news network on cable TV.

The biggest advantage for a Dow Jones tie in with News Corp was the potential for a television platform. The Wall Street Journal badly missed out by allowing CNBC and Bloomberg to run away with that market. Murdoch of course has his new Fox Business Network, but due to contractual commitments with CNBC, he is not permitted to use the DJ assets. And by the time those contracts expire, the dismally low-rated FBN may be history.

So…all in all, Dow Jones probably would have been better off if they had left well enough alone. They lost some prominent and experienced talent when Murdoch took over. And although he is moving slowly, so as not to spook his staff and subscribers, we can still expect him to put his personal stamp on the enterprise by dumbing down the content to reach a broader market. That’s been his M.O. throughout his entire career and there are no signs that he is abandoning his affection for tabloid sensationalism and rightist propaganda.

Happy Birthday Fox Business Network

Today is the first anniversary of the debut of the Fox Business Network, Rupert Murdoch’s newest propaganda platform. Ratings for the network are still so low that, even after a year, Nielsen cannot certify their reliability and they are not published. When numbers were leaked earlier this year they revealed a pitiful performance that drew only 8,000 daytime viewers, and 20,000 in prime time. CNBC, by contrast, drew an average of 284,000 viewers during the day and 191,000 in prime time.

This hasn’t stopped Murdoch from pursuing his ambition for a business channel that would be…

“…more business-friendly than CNBC. That channel leap[s] on every scandal, or what they think is a scandal.”

Ironically, the network that was hatched to put a rosy hue on business news appears to have had the opposite effect on the financial world into which it was born. The week that FBN launched the Dow Jones was at an all-time high. Since then the Dow, which also became the property of Murdoch when he purchased it along with the Wall Street Journal, has plummeted 33%.

Is it mere coincidence that the markets went straight down immediately after having been touched by Murdoch’s bony, demon finger? The first week that FBN was on the air the Dow dropped over 500 points. That should have served as a warning of the devastation yet to come.

On July 13, 2007, FBN’s Managing Editor, Neil Cavuto, disputed reports of the economy’s weakness saying that he “[didn’t] believe a word of it.” Cavuto previously downplayed the significance of the credit crunch, saying that, because “this ‘meltdown’ affects roughly 4 percent of all mortgages out there” there wasn’t really any problem at all. He then blamed market declines on John Edwards, who was running a distant third in the Democratic primaries at the time, but apparently still had superhuman powers over the stock market.

Cavuto’s colleague, Bill O’Reilly, recently asserted that the market was tanking because traders were pricing in a presumed Obama victory in November. [For the record, the market has performed better during Democratic administrations than Republicans for the past 107 years. And investments accrue more under Democrats]. O’Reilly also has a spotty record of financial analysis. He lambasted General Electric’s CEO, Jeffrey Immelt, with whom O’Reilly is obsessed, saying that he didn’t know how Immelt kept his job after GE’s stock dropped 36%. But O’Reilly must not have noticed that News Corp., the parent of Fox News was itself down 38% – even worse than GE. Maybe he should be asking how Murdoch keeps his job.

So in honor of FBN’s first birthday, investors and news consumers should be aware that this is the sort of credibility you can expect from Fox News and FBN which calls itself: The Network You Can’t Afford To Miss. It’s more like: The Network You Can’t Afford To Watch.

Fox Business Network Jinxes The Markets

Dow Jones announced today that it will be adjusting the components of its Dow 30 stock index. This is the first change since Dow Jones, parent of the Wall Street Journal, was purchased by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, parent of Fox News and the recently launched Fox Business Network. The index will be replacing the Altria Group and Honeywell with Bank of America and Chevron. The result will be an increase in the weighting of financials and energy in the index.

It will be interesting to see the effect over time of these trades, but given the propensity of Murdoch to attempt to manipulate outcomes to his liking, one must wonder if there is a hidden purpose to these events. He has previously confessed to trying to shape the agenda on the war in Iraq. He also promised to make the FBN a business friendly network.

Murdoch’s machinations of late have not met with the success to which he is normally accustomed. Fox News is presently the slowest growing cable news network. FBN got off to a pathetic crawl. And I wonder if anyone else has noticed this sign of the Apocalypse: When the Fox Business Network launched on October 15, 2007, the Dow Jones had just hit its all-time high. Since then the markets have collapsed, diving 15% in the four months since FBN’s debut.

FBN Decline


Dow Jones Is Already Murdoch’s Bitch

The Fox Business Network launched yesterday in a manner that affirmed its mission to dumb down business news and to manipulate information for the benefit of itself or its agenda.

Emblematic of their reputation for low-brow, prurient exploitation, they managed to squeeze in an interview of the financial wizard on your left: The Naked Cowboy. This is typical of the Fox Filosophy that glorifies ignorance. It may be why Fox viewers think Bush is smart. On previous occasions Neil Cavuto, FBN’s managing editor, has called on such business luminaries as Tommy Chong to comment on immigration, or MTV dinosaur Kurt Loder to explain health care legislation. And we must not forget notable appearances by Ted Nugent, Kinky Friedman, and a plethora of porn stars and Hooters waitresses.

Also on FBN’s birthday, it appears that News Corp improperly used its influence to interfere with the business of its top rival. CNBC had purchased ads on and the Wall Street Journal’s website. Unfortunately for CNBC, both of those sites are owned by Dow Jones which has recently agreed to be acquired by News Corp. Consequently, not only did the ads not run, but ads for FBN ran in their place. It must be noted here that the Dow Jones acquisition has not actually been finalized and News Corp has no managerial authority of them. Nonetheless, someone made the decision to break CNBC’s contract and reward Fox with the spoils. Spokespersons for Fox were unable to adequately explain how or why this happened, but it doesn’t take a Blue Ribbon Commission to figure it out.

This sort of editorial intervention wouldn’t pass muster in a high school newspaper. Fox is generously providing all the evidence that anyone would need to conclude that this new network will be as manipulative, dishonest, and unethical as the Fox News Channel has always been. And it was particularly decent of them to do it all on the first day of broadcasting.