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CNN’s Long-Awaited Murdoch Saga Is Finally Getting Its Network Debut

On Thursday afternoon, 21 Jim Rutenberg‘s voice beamed across Fresh air With Terry Gross, a holy grail of media promotion where he appeared to be debating The Murdochs: Empire of Influence. The ambitious documentary series based on Rutenberg and Jonathan Mahleris 2019 Magazine of the New York Times Opus, about the Murdoch family, just made its debut on CNN+, a brand new streaming service created by the original 24-hour cable news network. But there was a problem, and an uncomfortable one at that — on the same day, CNN’s new bosses at Warner Bros. Discovery announced that CNN+ would close on April 30, less than a month after its much-hyped debut, which Rutenbergs made Fresh air Segment a bit moot.

After the spectacular implosion of CNN+ realm of influence and the rest of the platform’s programming was put on hold while bosses figured out what to do with it. Rutenberg and Mahler, who worked closely on the series as consulting producers, eagerly awaited the next steps. But when Warner Bros. Discovery began retooling CNN for the Post —jeff sugar Era, led by the new CEO chris light, ominous speculation began to swirl.

The narrative, which quickly caught on in the media, suggested the company wanted to move CNN closer – away from the righteous diatribes that had defined it during the Trump years and back to a more dispassionate statement of fact -Ma’ at the presentation of the news of the day. On-air personalities thought to be emblematic of the earlier approach were suddenly said to be on the chopping block. (Two such figures, Brian Steller and john harwood, would exit in the coming months.) And the specter of the Warner Bros. Discovery shareholder John Malone stood out big. It was Malone, a libertarian cable pioneer and mentor to the WBD boss David Zaslav, who had thoroughly unsettled CNN’s journalistic corps with a now infamous appearance on CNBC, speaking somewhat derisively of CNN while praising his network of choice, Fox News – controlled, of course, by Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch. Would there be a home in this recalibrated, supposedly Malone-infused CNN for a heated Murdoch documentary, one critical of Fox News and based on a magazine feature that didn’t fare well in the Murdoch world? The conspiratorial whispers got loud enough that Rutenberg and Mahler — who by early summer still hadn’t received word of a new airing date — received a tip from an attached journalist overseas, who had heard that WBD was going to make the series go away.

In the end, the rumor mill turned out to be just that. After his poorly timed and little seen streaming blip, realm of influence will finally take flight this Sunday when it premieres episodes one and two on CNN at 9 p.m. There is a moment of turmoil for the Murdochs – albeit moderate turmoil – between Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.7 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News; Lachlan’s related legal battle with news website Crikey in the Murdochs’ homeland of Australia; and Rupert’s still fresh divorce from Jerry Hall. It all seems child’s play compared to the absolutely biblical scandals this family has endured over the years. “The thing about the Murdochs,” Rutenberg said when I met him and Mahler before the premiere, “is that’s the way things are always a bit hot for her.”

Jim Rutenberg and Jonathan Mahler.Courtesy of CNN.

Over the course of seven episodes, each lasting an hour (counting the commercials), realm of influence is a history course in Murdoch controversies. There was the kidnapping and murder of Muriel McKay, who was mistaken for Rupert’s second wife. Anna Murdoch, 1969; the 1986 Wapping printers’ strike at Murdoch’s London newspaper operations; the sexual harassment investigation that ended the career of longtime Fox News CEO Roger Ailes and the network phenomenon Bill O’Reilly; and most epic, the great phone-hacking upheaval that reshaped Murdoch’s global media apparatus more than a decade ago.

For those of us who’ve devoured the real-time phone hacking saga like a serial newspaper thriller, episode five is a juicy walk down memory lane: Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson, the infamous “for Neville” email that landed James Murdoch in hot water (which he claims was not made aware of at the time), the ignominious end news from all over the world, and last but not least the shaving cream cake toss heard around the world. regret earlier News from all over the world Editor Greg Miskiw (who died last year) appears on camera bemoaning his role as one of the first journalists at the tabloid to have indulged in the dark arts of illegally accessing people’s voicemails via private investigators. And the new reporting in the episode of Rutenberg and Mahler explores to what extent Elizabeth Murdoch– then recently back in the family business through the sale of their production company Shine – has apparently asked her father to fire James, whose wife, Kathryn Murdoch, called her mother to intervene. “She’s furious,” Rutenberg says of Elisabeth to the camera, “because in her mind everything she’s built is at stake now.” (Elisabeth has denied that she encouraged James’s dismissal.) Like Mahler’s hacking of phones to viewers describes, “It’s like a stick of dynamite exploded in the family.”

Crisis aside, this is an empire-building series narrated by a who’s who of Murdoch Kremlinologists and media stars. (Apart from Rutenberg and Mahler you will also hear from Roger Stone, Maggie Haberman, Maury Povich, Alisyn Camerota, Gretchen Carlson, Andrew Ross Sorkin, Alex Wagner, Sarah Ellison, David Folkenflik, Matthew Belloni, Brian Stelter, Abby Phillip, Kim Masters, Emily Bell, Alan Rusbridger, vanity fair editor-in-chief Radhika Jones, and many others.) realm of influence follows Rupert Murdoch’s rise from his beginnings as the owner of a single Australian tabloid to his legacy as the most consequential, power-wielding global media mogul the world has ever seen and may ever see. It is also the real documentary version of succession, replete with sibling rivalry, parental ambushes, a menacing neo-classical soundtrack and yachts galore, beginning with a cinematic opening scene depicting the life-threatening fall Murdoch suffered while relieving himself while cruising the Caribbean one night in January 2018.

Courtesy of CNN.

https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2022/09/cnns-long-awaited-murdoch-saga-is-finally-getting-its-network-debut CNN’s Long-Awaited Murdoch Saga Is Finally Getting Its Network Debut

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