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The Many Faces of Rupert Murdoch's Business Empire

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Even if you wanted to boycott the entire Rupert Murdoch News Corporation empire, you'd have a hard time connecting all the dots across all his media properties. Just like the Koch brothers, the tentacles of Murdoch's reach are far and wide. And Murdoch's businesses also represent a schizophrenia like none other.

In England, Murdoch's media properties are seeing a loss in advertising revenues and readers appalled at accusations that reporters hacked into cell phone accounts, and that police were paid for information. But so far, there has been little call for such an advertiser and reader boycott of Murdoch's U.S. properties.

There has been some general pressure against Fox News Channel, especially against the Glenn Beck Show before it left the network, but overall the pressure has not filtered into Murdoch's other properties, including 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Broadcasting Company.

Perhaps that is because there are just too many companies and programs to keep track of, and also because many progressives are actually employed within the Murdoch empire.

While one tentacle is Fox News, with its conservative, right-wing approach to American politics, another tentacle has aired some of the queerest TV you can imagine, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Nip/Tuck to newer hit Glee. And there are a hundred more tentacles to go with those, from the hack-infested tabloid newspapers to more traditional print publications in the U.S.

This presents quite a dilemma for people who want to do their creative work with any authenticity. Some of the LGBT community's brightest talents are working lining the pockets of a corporation that fights against their rights in its media properties, and gives money to anti-gay politicians.

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation released its fifth annual GLAAD Network Responsibility Index this week. Fox (with shows like Glee leading the way) and sister network FX (Archer, Sons of Anarchy) were among those networks rated. Fox had 214 LGBT-Inclusive hours (29 percent), which was similar to the last report of 30 percent, but much higher than previous years (11 percent in 2008-09, 4 percent in 2007-08).

The FX network received a 19 percent score for 15.5 hours of LGBT-inclusive programming, a drop from their high of 27 percent in the last report.

As GLAAD reports about Fox:

Founded in 1986, Fox's sensitivity to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues has frequently been called into question. Melrose Place may be considered a pioneer in early representations of gay men, but in 1994, GLAAD took Fox to task for censoring a kiss between two gay characters on the show. Since then, GLAAD has taken issue with Fox on a number of occasions, and the network received a 'Failing' grade in the first NRI for its mere 6 percent of LGBT-inclusive content. Questioned about that grade, Fox Entertainment President Kevin Reilly told AfterElton.com it was 'disheartening' and that the network 'absolutely' has a responsibility to represent LGBT people. ...

Fox's greatest problems with LGBT representation have typically been during their Sunday animation block, which last year saw terribly transphobic jokes being made on both Family Guy and The Cleveland Show.

And let's not forget all the LGBT writers and actors on Fox and FX network shows. Glee alone has many queer and queer-friendly folks on both sides of the cameras.

The TV network is not their only foray into entertainment. There are films and TV stations, and TV shows that don't run on their own network. Fox Television Studios is behind such hits as The Shield, Saving Grace, Burn Notice, Rescue Me, Sons of Anarchy and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. And, believe it or not, they are producing the plushie-like Wilfred TV show this summer. Violence, sex and hardly conservative "family values."

Fox's film divisions produce both mainstream and independent films, including such LGBT-friendly titles as Boys Don't Cry, Kissing Jessica Stein, Imagine Me & You and even Black Swan. They have some of the biggest franchises in film history, including Star Wars, X-Men and The Chronicles of Narnia. They own other TV networks including Big Ten, business, movie and soccer channels.

Short of not reading newspapers, books and magazines, watching TV, sports or movies, looking at billboards, listening to music, or going online, you probably would find it almost impossible to boycott all things Rupert Murdoch. This applies to places around the world, with special concentrations in the U.S., the United Kingdom and Australia. Murdoch's company even owns part of the Papua New Guinea Post-Courier.

So while consumers may not be able to string together a successful boycott, I am more perplexed by those who work for Murdoch. I see many of the great minds of my generation propping up his empire. I don't want to call out names, because that's not the point -- they know who they are. But will any of them have the courage to leave, even at risk to their own careers?

Tracy Baim is publisher of Windy City Times.

Around the Web

What Murdoch's media empire did: the big picture – Boing Boing

Rupert Murdoch's empire - The Washington Post

For Murdoch's empire, a scandal of its own - USATODAY.com