Rupert Murdoch
Rupert Murdoch at the WSJ. Magazine Innovator Awards at The Museum of Modern Art in New York. Image by AP

Murdoch media ban a tall tale from across the Tasman

Nik Dirga June 14, 2022
WHAT WAS CLAIMED

Rupert Murdoch has been banned from having a media platform in New Zealand.

OUR VERDICT

False. There has been no law or action to ban Murdoch or his companies in New Zealand.

Rupert Murdoch’s impact on the media landscape in Britain, Australia and the United States has been massive and at times controversial. But a claim on Facebook that his companies have been banned from owning media in New Zealand is a case of fake news about news.

A post shared on a Facebook page (screenshot here) claims that “you do realise that Murdoch has been banned from having a media platform in New Zealand.” Other versions of the claim are here and here

However, New Zealand government officials and media experts told AAP FactCheck the claim is incorrect.

Mr Murdoch is chairman and CEO of News Corp and has built a vast media empire which includes newspapers, books, magazines and television outlets. News Corp’s brands include Fox News, Wall Street Journal and the New York Post in the US; The Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times in the UK and in Australia publications such as The Australian, Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph.

While Mr Murdoch has previously had some holdings in New Zealand, that’s not the case now – although it’s not because of any ban, government representatives confirmed to AAP FactCheck.

The Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture & Heritage advises New Zealand’s Minister for Broadcasting and Media, Kris Faafoi, on media policy. 

“Aotearoa New Zealand has not banned any media entities owned by Rupert Murdoch from operating in the country,” Emily Fabling, its deputy chief executive for policy and performance, said in an email. 

“Aotearoa New Zealand does not regulate ownership of media organisations or ban individuals from operating a media business in the country.”

The office of the New Zealand Companies Register, run by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), does have the power to ban directors from running a company, typically for mismanagement or criminal convictions. 

Vanessa Cook, the manager of integrity and enforcement at MBIE, told AAP FactCheck that Mr Murdoch was not banned as a director.

“Mr Murdoch is not the director of any company currently registered in New Zealand. He is not recorded as a disqualified director under the Companies Act 1993,” she said in an email.

“Murdoch’s media groups currently have no significant holdings in the NZ media market,” Dr Peter Thompson, an associate professor of media studies at Victoria University of Wellington Te Herenga Waka told AAP FactCheck.

Dr Thompson said NZ’s media ownership rules are considered fairly flexible. 

“NZ has one of the most liberal media ownership regimes in the OECD,” he said in an email. “Other than generic competition laws concerning market concentration, there are no rules limiting overseas investment or cross-media ownership.”

Dr Merja Myllylahti, a senior lecturer in media studies at the Auckland University of Technology and co-director of their research centre for Journalism, Media and Democracy (JMAD), told AAP FactCheck in an email: “As far as I know Murdoch has not been banned to own media in New Zealand, that is a silly suggestion.”

The annual New Zealand Media Ownership Report is produced by JMAD. News Corp is not listed among the owners of NZ media in JMAD’s most recent report in 2021 (page 12). The JMAD analysis of New Zealand media ownership from 2011 to 2020 also lays out how News Corp divested of its New Zealand holdings. 

Dr Myllylahti said she believed Mr Murdoch “has sold all his stakes in New Zealand media,” as detailed in the reports.

Starting in the 1960s Mr Murdoch’s News Limited had invested in INL or Independent Newspapers Limited, a New Zealand media company founded in 1906. That company sold all of its holdings in 2003 to Australia’s Fairfax, and in 2020 the properties owned by Fairfax including the Stuff website were bought out by NZ owners

Sky TV was launched in NZ in 1990 and while News Corp became a dominant shareholder in the late 1990s, in 2013 it sold off its stake in the company.

A Sky TV representative confirmed in an email to AAP FactCheck that “News Corp has no ownership stake in Sky anymore.” Sky TV does have sharing, or “pass through” broadcast rights in NZ for News Corp-owned media such as Foxtel and Sky News Australia.

In 2019, Sky News Australia was temporarily removed by New Zealand’s Sky TV because it shared violent footage of the March 15 mosque attacks in Christchurch. At the time there were incorrect social media claims that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern banned Sky News Australia, but Sky New Zealand made the decision, according to its public statements.

There have also been recent claims that Ms Ardern had spoken about keeping Mr Murdoch out of NZ media, but those were debunked by Reuters in February.

The Verdict

New Zealand has not banned Rupert Murdoch or News Corp from media ownership, government representatives and local media experts confirmed to AAP FactCheck. Mr Murdoch’s companies have had a long history of investment in New Zealand media, but exited the market in recent years. 

False – The claim is inaccurate.

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