Roger Ailes

As the nasty revelations about Roger Ailes continue to tumble out of the Murdoch empire in New York since his ousting last month, Melbourne-based Sir Rod Eddington must be nervously watching on from his Collins Street office.

You see, Sir Rod is the “lead independent director” of Fox News parent company 21st Century Fox and chair of its four-man audit committee, which also includes BHP Billiton chairman Jac Nasser.

If the company’s executive chairman, Rupert Murdoch, turned a blind eye as Ailes used his position at Fox News to harass numerous women and spend millions of dollars paying out victims or smearing enemies, then it really should be Sir Rod leading the charge at board level to get to the bottom of it and holding various parties to account.

Instead, as usually happens with governance issues inside Murdoch-controlled public companies, it is the family making the running — notably sons Lachlan and James taking down Ailes — with the non-executive directors watching on in silence.

Rupert has always been the biggest fan and defender of Roger Ailes within his global media empire and the wider Murdoch family, and still seems to think it is fine to pay him millions as a consultant. When his then-son in law Matthew Freud said this about Ailes in 2010:

“I am by no means alone within the family or the company in being ashamed and sickened by Roger Ailes’s horrendous and sustained disregard of the journalistic standards that News Corporation, its founder and every other global media business aspires to.”

Rupert replied at the 2010 News Corp AGM that Freud “couldn’t be more wrong”. With Rupert’s blessing, Ailes continued to run amok in the Murdoch workplace for another six years.

Having watched the denials about phone hacking, don’t expect Rupert to ever apologise for the behaviour of Ailes, which has so far been documented in this growing list of stories coming out of New York:

Given that the Murdoch family control the board of 21st Century Fox through their undemocratic gerrymander, it really should be external pressure on the so-called independent directors of the company that brings the full board into the equation.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey