Could Fox News offer new opportunity for Rebekah Brooks?
The red-haired news executive was one of the people called to account for an infamous episode of “phone hacking” by personnel at News of the World, part of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. empire, and resigned under duress as chief executive of the company’s British operations in 2011. She was reinstated at News Corp. in 2015, and continues to be a favorite of the media mogul, according to a person familiar with his companies. That durable relationship has given rise to some speculation that Brooks could be considered as a candidate to take the reins at a different kind of Murdoch favorite: Fox News Channel.
To be sure, there’s no indication she is in the running. But she is a Murdoch family loyalist, one of the qualities that some people familiar with 21st Century Fox have suggested would be important as the media conglomerate determines who should run the cable-news network after the departure of Roger Ailes in the wake of sexual-harassment allegations leveled at him in a lawsuit by Gretchen Carlson, a former anchor. Ailes has denied the charges.
Murdoch is known to be fond of Brooks, who spent many years directing a British newspaper staff to find out the most colorful and sometimes embarrassing details about celebrities and politicians. The New York Times reported in 2011 that he “is said to regard her as a kind of favorite daughter.” He is also believed to think of Fox News Channel as an important part of his legacy, noting in a recent memo that “Fox News has given voice to those who were ignored by the traditional networks and has been one of the great commercial success stories of modern media.”
Who better to entrust with the fate of one’s legacy than family, whether real or surrogate?
A decision to import Brooks to Fox News (she currently heads the U.K. operations of News Corp.) would raise eyebrows. She was editor of the Murdochs’ News of the World when people working on its behalf hacked into the phone of Milly Dowler, a 13-year-old girl found murdered in 2002. An inquiry discovered the hacking took place after she disappeared but before her body was discovered, which slowed a police investigation and upset her family. Brooks said she did not know anything about the hacking. News Corp., now separate from the operations of 21st Century Fox, announced in 2011 that it would shutter the paper.
Murdoch, however, is no stranger to controversy and has ridden out many at his companies, whether they involved allegations in 2005 by a former “American Idol” contestant that one of the judges, Paula Abdul, had offered him off-camera help, or an unsolicited bid in 2014 for Time Warner.
At present, Murdoch himself is overseeing Fox News and its sister, Fox Business, aided by a troika of veterans at the unit: Bill Shine, senior executive vice president of programming; Jay Wallace, executive vice president of news and editorial; and Mark Kranz, the operations’ chief financial officer.
People familiar with the company have suggested Shine or others might be in contention for the CEO role. They have also pointed to Jesse Angelo, who leads the New York Post, or John Moody, executive editor of FoxNews.com, as potential candidates.
For now, however, it looks as if the current regime is making key decisions. Shine is said to have been involved in a decision revealed Monday to part ways with Michael Clemente, a senior Fox News executive who joined in 2009 after nearly three decades with ABC News.
Brooks would certainly have the ability to stand up to Fox News detractors and back the network when it places emphasis on conservative talking points and topics. She has lived through calls for her resignation in Britain and revelations about her personal life. Whether Murdoch picks her or elects to put someone else in charge of the network remains to be seen.