HEARD ON THE STREET: RUPERT'S GOT IT!
Concluding a $5-billion sale in which issues of integrity and independence figured as prominently as price, the boards of directors of News Corp and Dow Jones have approved a deal that will transfer to Rupert Murdoch control of the world's most respected business daily, the Wall Street Journal. Sealing the deal Tuesday night ended three months of high drama as members of the Bancroft family, the owners of Dow Jones, debated among themselves whether to allow the Journal's legacy to be jeopardized by Murdoch, who is known for bending the editorial policies of his newspapers to advance his own conservative politics. In a statement following the boards' action, Murdoch said, I want to offer the Bancrofts my thanks, and an assurance that our company and my family will be equally strong custodians."
JOURNAL TO COMPETE WITH MURDOCH'S BUSINESS CHANNEL FOR NOW
Questions immediately arose regarding the effect of the sale on Murdoch's planned Fox Business Network, due to launch in October. The cable channel will compete directly with NBC-owned CNBC, which currently has an exclusive deal with the Wall Street Journal through 2012. Still, many analysts speculated that Murdoch in the meantime plans to package advertising sales for the paper, its website and FBN, offering attractive prices that could undercut competitors. Appearing on Fox News Channel Tuesday, Alexis Glick, a former CNBC business reporter who has been named director of business news for Fox Business Network, commented that Murdoch "is in it for the long haul. This is one of the most respected newspapers in the world. It's an incredible Internet play. I mean, it's a fantastic play across the board. So if it's added in for us out of the gate, great. If it's not, it's a great long-term story." Anchor Shepard Smith added that he was "fired up" about the deal.
HOW TO KEEP MURDOCH'S HANDS OFF JOURNAL'S CONTENT
As part of the deal with the Bancrofts, Rupert Murdoch agreed to the creation of an independent committee aimed at protecting the journalistic integrity and editorial independence of the Wall Street Journal. (It was not disclosed whether the committee would also have a say in the operation of the Fox Business Network if and when it expands its ties with the Journal.) In interviews with other newspapers, veteran reporters for the Journal expressed skepticism that the committee could effectively operate. One reporter told the Los Angeles Times: It's a sickening realization to know that this really great iconic newspaper is [not only] no longer going to be independent, but is also going to be controlled by a man whose values are inimical to ours." Another Journal reporter told the New York Times: "It meant more to be a Wall Street Journal reporter yesterday than it does tomorrow. ... I worked hard to get here, and I feel like I will always tell people that I was here before Murdoch. There will always be a before and an after."
WILL THE FINANCIAL TIMES NOW TEAM UP WITH NBC?
Marjorie Scardino, the U.S.-born CEO of Pearson, which owns the Wall Street Journal's chief competitor, the London Financial Times, said Tuesday that she has been in talks with NBC about forming a partnership to meet the challenge posed by Murdoch's takeover of the Journal. In an interview with today's (Wednesday) New York Times, Scardino described the talks as "kicking the tires." Noting that the FT has seen its circulation and profits rise significantly in recent years, Paul Richards, an analyst at Numis Securities in London, told the New York Times, "The FT is making hay while the sun shines" and suggested that Scardino might relish a battle with Rupert Murdoch.
SINGING BEE LOSES MORE VIEWERS
NBC's The Singing Bee lost a lot of its sting last week as it lost its top spot on the weekly Nielsen ratings list, falling to No. 6. It was replaced by CBS's CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, the usual weekly winner when Fox's American Idol is not airing. Still, NBC's own talent contest, America's Got Talent, was a close second on the list. Fox's So You Think You Can Dance performed nicely to tie (with CBS's 60 Minutes) for third. For the most part, however, the usual broadcast network viewers had other things on their mind during the week, as CBS captured the highest average with just a 4.3 rating and an 8 share. NBC was in second place with only a 3.7/7. Fox was close behind with a 3.5/7, while ABC trailed with a 3.3/6. In the evening news race, Charles Gibson returned from vacation and ABC's World News With Charles Gibson returned to first place. The Gibson newscast drew 7.5 million viewers, while NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams drew 7.2 million. CBS Evening News With Katie Couric remained well behind with 5.9 million.
The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:
1. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 6.4/11; 2. America's Got Talent, NBC, 6.2/11; 3. 60 Minutes, CBS, 5.9/12; 3. So You Think Can Dance (Thursday) , Fox, 5.9/10; 5. Two and a Half Men, CBS, 5.8/10; 6. Shark (Thursday), CBS, 5.7/10; 6. Singing Bee, NBC, 5.7/10; 8. CSI: NY, CBS, 5.5/10; 8. Don't Forget the Lyrics (Thursday), Fox, 5.5/10; 8. NCIS, CBS, 5.5/10.
CONTROVERSIAL ITV DOCUMENTARY SHOWING "DEATH" QUESTIONED
In yet another incident raising questions about the factual honesty of British television, an upcoming documentary that aroused controversy when it was touted as the first to show a man dying on camera has turned out to be misleading. The commercial network ITV acknowledged Tuesday that the man, Alzheimer's victim Paul Watson, died three days after the controversial "death" scene was filmed. "This will be made clear at the end of the film on transmission and should have been made clear earlier," ITV director of television Simon Shaps said in a statement. Pointon's wife confirmed during a BBC radio interview that her husband did not die in the controversial scene, but insisted that the moment of death was not important. The scene, she said, showed "Malcolm's last semi-conscious moments, because after that... Malcolm slipped deeper and deeper into unconsciousness, into a coma, and he just faded away." Conservative M.P. Ed Vaizey told the Guardian newspaper, I hope this is now the final lesson to be learned by production companies who often make good programmes that are undermined by misleading publicity campaigns."