Company at war with Friedman over column

Has longtime Fox News entertainment blogger Roger Friedman been fired? It depends whom you ask.

On Saturday News Corp. released a statement saying the Hollywood gadfly had been “terminated.”

But on Sunday afternoon Friedman told Daily Variety that he had not been let go.

Fox News released its own missive when asked on Sunday afternoon if Friedman had been ousted. “This is an internal matter that we’re not prepared to discuss at this time,” a Fox News spokesperson said.

For its part, the studio weighed in Friday with its own statement, calling Friedman’s actions “reprehensible.”

Friedman came under fire for posting a review of a pirated version of 20th Century Fox’s “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” Both Fox News and 20th Century Fox are divisions of parent company News Corp.

Friedman posted a review of the film Thursday, one day after an incomplete version of the tentpole was leaked on the Internet, a breach that occurred a month before the film’s release and that could potentially cost the studio millions in box office receipts.

After Friedman’s positive “Wolverine” review hit the Web, the fanboy blogging community, which had largely called for a boycott of any reviews of the film, immediately lobbied for Friedman’s dismissal.

RopeofSilicon.com, which posted a screen grab of Friedman’s item, echoed the sentiments of many bloggers when it wrote: “Where does FoxNews.com come up with the balls to publish a review of an unfinished illegal copy of a film their sister company is so desperately trying to squelch the existence of?”

As of Sunday afternoon, Friedman’s Fox 411 blog was still on FoxNews.com’s website; however, the offending “Wolverine” item had long since been pulled and deleted from the website’s cache.

The whole sequence of events looks like a case of corporate synergy gone awry, as three different divisions of News Corp. couldn’t even agree on the fate of Friedman.

Fox News’ boss Roger Ailes has strained relations with other News Corp. division execs, and, in fact, the entire Fox News division has an entirely different style than the rest of the company.

But Fox News is a cable ratings hotshot and contributes mightily to the conglom’s bottom line. Friedman’s posting was bound to cause friction between the two News Corp. divisions especially considering that Friedman’s Fox 411 blog is a top traffic draw for FoxNews.com.

Studio execs began to hear about Friedman’s post Friday and called for the matter to be addressed by its sister company, though stopped short of asking for Friedman’s ouster. The studio’s statement said: “We’ve just been made aware that Roger Friedman, a freelance columnist who writes Fox 411 on Foxnews.com — an entirely separate company from 20th Century Fox — watched on the Internet and reviewed a stolen and unfinished version of ‘X-Men Organs: Wolverine.’ This behavior is reprehensible and we condemn this act categorically — whether the review is good or bad.”

Calling Foxnews.com an entirely separate company from 20th Century Fox was an interesting choice of words, given that they’re sibling companies.

It took another day — and a torrent of negative press aimed at News Corp. in the blogging community — before News Corp. took action. Late Saturday night, News Corp. released a statement saying: “Roger Friedman’s views in no way reflect the views of News Corp. We, along with 20th Century Fox Film Corp., have been a consistent leader in the fight against piracy and have zero tolerance for any action that encourages and promotes piracy. When we advised Fox News of the facts they took immediate action, removed the post, and promptly terminated Mr. Friedman.”

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