The father of the Page Three girl has found God — Rupert Murdoch’s 20th Century Fox today unveiled a new division, FoxFaith, which is set to release up to a dozen religious-oriented films each year, in the biggest commitment to the evangelical Christian market that a major Hollywood studio has ever made.

Rupert is known for more salacious offerings like The Sun’s Benny Hill-style headlines and bikini-clad Fox television shows like Temptation Island and Nip/Tuck. But somehow Rupert successfully straddles the gulf between The Simpsons audiences and O’Reilly Factor fans, and by being the ultimate pragmatist, the mogul has managed to have his media cake and eat it too.

The Christian community tends to turn a blind eye to News Corp’s sins because the company has gained credibility as the voice for conservative America through its Fox News Channel. According to The LA Times, FoxFaith’s first theatrical release, a western called Love’s Abiding Joy, will “target evangelical Christians who often have shunned popular entertainment as offensive”.

Over the last four years, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has built a network to mobilise Ned Flanders-types across America — the network includes 90,000 congregations and a database of more than 14 million mainly evangelical households. Fox’s Simon Swart told The NY Times, “…people can have confidence the movies won’t violate their core beliefs”.

But this isn’t the first time Murdoch has cashed in on Christianity. Back in 1997 HarperCollins, a division of the News Corporation, purchased Christian publishing house Zondervan, the largest of its kind in the world. Zondervan offerings include the kids series Faithgirlz, the Archaelogical Study Bible and the “classic bestseller” Teen Study Bible.

Meanwhile, Rupert’s wife Wendy is on a mission of her own to another frontier, she’s on her way to China to set up the Chinese division of MySpace. “We have to make MySpace a very Chinese site,” said Murdoch. “I have sent my wife across there because she understands the language.”

Peter Fray

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