Stock – Rupert Murdoch
Rupert Murdoch's business empire has been put through an elaborate process of passing the baton to the next generation. Image Credit: AP

New York: Conservative media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who hands control of his empire to son Lachlan this week, on Wednesday pledged to maintain an "active role" in the business and slammed "intolerant" elites for silencing debate one year before the 2024 election.

The 92-year-old Murdoch formally passed the torch to 52-year-old Lachlan at News Corp on Wednesday. He will do the same at Fox Corp on Friday.

"I hope to continue an active role in the company," Murdoch, who will remain as chairman emeritus at News Corp, told shareholders at an annual meeting, adding that Lachlan will now be the company's "sole Chair."

The Australian-born Murdoch rose from local news in Adelaide to amassing a stable of legacy newspapers in Britain and the United States before launching into broadcast media.

Aggressive tabloids like The Sun and New York Post, storied dailies The Times and Wall Street Journal, and big-hitting television networks like Fox and Sky have turned the Murdoch family into some of the world's most influential figures.

At the shareholders' meeting, Murdoch - whose outlets have been accused of pushing the rise of populism in Britain and the United States, symbolized by the Brexit movement and the ascent of Donald Trump - fretted about free speech.

"There is no doubt that we should all be concerned about the suppression of debate by an intolerant elite who regard differing opinions as anathema," he said.

"We are blessed to live in a country where dreams are not yet subject to regulation."

In recent years, Fox News has faced allegations of disseminating disinformation about Covid-19 and promoting the false notion that the 2020 presidential election won by Joe Biden over Trump was rigged to ensure the Democrat's victory.

That notion fueled angry Trump supporters on January 6, 2021 when they stormed the US Capitol in a deadly outburst of violence.

Settling defamation claims

In April, Fox News reached a $787.5 million settlement in a defamation case brought by voting technology firm Dominion that alleged the network knowingly aired false claims linking its machines to a conspiracy to undermine the election.

In his brief remarks at the shareholders' meeting, Murdoch voiced concern about "the rise of virulent anti-Semitism" after the "barbaric" October 7 attack by Hamas on Israel.

He also highlighted the case of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who he said "remains unfairly imprisoned in Russia for simply doing his job," and thanked those working to secure the journalist's release.