Elisabeth Murdoch distances herself from brother James
For once a Murdoch has kind words for the BBC: Rupert’s girl lays down her News Corp marker
EDITOR'S UPDATE: Since this article was posted, Elisabeth Murdoch has said she has "absolutely no ambition" to replace her father as head of News Corp.
ELISABETH MURDOCH, daughter of News Corp boss Rupert Murdoch, used the annual MacTaggart lecture yesterday to distance herself from her brother James, position herself as the 'nice' Murdoch and launch a bid to lead the company, industry experts say.
While Elisabeth did not explicitly declare an ambition to take over from Rupert, the 44-year-old left her audience at the Edinburgh TV festival - the great and good of British television – in little doubt that she wants to be more involved. The Daily Telegraph said the message was clear: "This was the start of a candidacy campaign."
If the lecture was an election address, Elisabeth seemed to be campaigning on the Nice ticket. She pointedly distanced herself from the rest of the family in her support for the BBC and its licence fee and her insistence that "profit must be our servant".
Elisabeth was delivering the lecture three years after her brother James memorably used it to attack what he called the BBC's "chilling" ambitions to expand, claiming that its deep resources were stifling competition and creativity.
She referred directly to her little brother's speech, saying: “I think that he left something out… profit without purpose is a recipe for disaster. Profit must be our servant not our master.”
She said she was a "current supporter of the universal licence fee", at odds with her BBC-bashing brother and father, and even praising outgoing director-general Mark Thompson as a man of "vision and leadership".
Elisabeth is founder and CEO of UK-based TV production company Shine Limited. After 12 years of independence, she sold the company to News Corp – a controversial move which saw Rupert accused of nepotism.
Commentators think Elisabeth might aim to succeed her father herself, or settle for a leading role in a future News Corp controlled by middle child Lachlan Murdoch, after lending him her support to take over from Rupert.
James was previously the clear leader in the race to take over from the old man, but stepped down as chairman of News Corp's UK newspapers in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal. Analysing the speech for The Guardian, Lisa O'Carroll said Elisabeth had put "clear blue water" between herself and James and "positioned herself as a native Brit occupying a higher ethical plane than her younger sibling".
Media commentator Steve Hewlett told the paper Elisabeth was "positioning herself as someone who is quite genuinely part of our industry, not the outsider, or the revolutionary determined to up-end it". He added: "She compliments the BBC. Who would have imagined a Murdoch ever doing that?"
On the Daily Beast, Peter Jukes said many in the audience had expected Elisabeth to use the speech to deny ever saying a line attributed to her at the height of the phone-hacking scandal: "James and Rebekah [Brooks] f***ed the company." She didn't.