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HOLLYWOOD — It wasn’t always smooth sailing in Rupeville.

If the Murdoch empire can now be said to reflect the tone and perhaps even set the pace for pop culture, it was not always thus.

In gentler times, it ruffled a lot of feathers.

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This is, after all, the company that launched “Studs” as well as “The Simpsons”; the company that proffered “Joan Rivers” as the next “Johnny Carson” in latenight; the company that dreamt up “When Animals Attack” before it saw better and took a stake in National Geographic Channel; the company that has cookie-cut “Temptation Islands” around the world as well as the company that produced groundbreaking dramas like “NYPD Blue” and “X-Files.”

There is still a whiff of the prurient in the entertainment (think “Paradise Hotel”), just as there’s a penchant for the polemical in the sometimes strident newscasting.

And there’s still a contingent worldwide that believes that all things Murdochian are malodorous if not maleficent.

When Murdoch himself breached the inner circle of British broadcasting to deliver a speech at the Edinburgh TV fest in 1989, he was roundly blasted as a purveyor of the lowest common denominator as well as a right-wing union-buster.

The French, naturalmente, branded him as the beast at the gates, who must be kept off the Continent at all costs.

Having to zig while the established Big Three U.S. nets were still zagging back in the mid ’80s, Fox came out of the box with some real clunkers.

A Variety story at the time pondered whether such an upstart as the Fox netlet would meet the same fate as the ill-fated Dumont web in the early ’50s.

“Married … With Children,” which launched in the spring of 1987, aroused cries of tastelessness as well as plaudits for its blue-collar boldness. (The show now seems quaint, as viewing tastes have coarsened and taboos have toppled in the wake of Fox’s lead.)

Even Murdoch’s bankers demurred in 1989 when the company’s debt load topped $10 billion, and antitrust regulations momentarily hamstrung the expansion of the company.

As News Corp. spread its tentacles into the worldwide satellite biz in the ’90s, other players and other countries were rattled by its single-minded purpose.

To Ted Turner, who was fielding a rival global satellite operation and liked to vaunt the vision thing, Murdoch was satanic in his flinty-eyed focus on the main chance.

Murdoch famously caved in to the illiberal Chinese authorities in 1995 and tempered the news on Star TV while the BBC got bounced from the mainland for its critical reportage.

In India, News Corp. was hit in 1998 with a lawsuit for beaming in supposedly obscene movies like “Stripped to Kill,” though all was apparently forgiven when a localized “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” became such a hit on Star TV India.

And that indeed seems to be the trend worldwide, as News Corp. outlets Stateside and abroad increasingly define the mainstream rather than counter it.