Imagine: It’s the late 1990s, and John Fahey, CEO of NGS, is looking for a viable way to launch a very expensive new business venture — the National Geographic Channel.
During due diligence on one potential partner — Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp — the NGS executive team watches the (real, not imaginary) 1996 Frontline documentary, Who’s Afraid of Rupert Murdoch?
THOMAS KIERNAN, Biographer: That’s what he’s built his empire on. He indulges and makes money off sex and sensationalism.
KEN AULETTA: Going beyond the lessons he learned on Fleet Street, he took his papers down market and upped circulation dramatically.
THOMAS KIERNAN: He went right to the lowest common denominator-type of journalism….
TOM SHALES, T.V. Critic, “The Washington Post”: The irony now is that congress is complaining about violence and smuttiness on T.V. and Rupert Murdoch has been in the vanguard of that– at least, his Fox network has. I mean, it has established sort of new lows in taste on television.
PRESTON PADDEN, President, Fox Network Distribution: People like watching the Fox network. We have brought creativity, imagination and, I would argue, quality to television programming that hadn’t been there when the three old networks had the business to themselves. And I don’t think you need to defend a product that finds widespread commercial acceptance in the marketplace.
TOM SHALES: This argument of, “I’m giving the people what they want” — I mean, I think that’s probably what Nero said when he fed Christians to the lions. As far as I know, the ratings on that were very high. It was a big crowd pleaser. You know, a terrible accident on the highway causes everyone to slow down and stare at it. That doesn’t mean you necessarily would want to put it on prime time.
John Fahey’s verdict: Let’s form a partnership with this guy, and let him work that Murdoch Magic on the NGS brand.
You still there, John?