Politico astutely pointed out the other day that Fox News now employs four of the leading Republican presidential candidates: Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, and Rick Santorum.

It’s hardly news that Fox News is more propaganda outlet than news organization. But this ought to be a more troubling development than it seems to have been thus far. Here’s the broader media angle from Politico:

With the exception of Mitt Romney, Fox now has deals with every major potential Republican presidential candidate not currently in elected office.

The matter is of no small consequence, since it’s uncertain how other news organizations can cover the early stages of the presidential race when some of the main GOP contenders are contractually forbidden to appear on any TV network besides Fox.

C-SPAN Political Editor Steve Scully said that when C-SPAN tried to have Palin on for an interview, he was told he had to first get Fox’s permission — which the network, citing her contract, ultimately denied. Producers at NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN and MSNBC all report similar experiences.

And here’s the more insidious one Paul Krugman points out today:

Now, media moguls have often promoted the careers and campaigns of politicians they believe will serve their interests. But directly cutting checks to political favorites takes it to a whole new level of blatancy.

Rupert Murdoch: Never subtle.

Murdoch, at least, is a naturalized American citizen, and who can forget the heart-warming story of why he became one: To get past legal requirements so he could snap up TV stations here.

But I’ve never understood why the UK allows a foreigner like Murdoch to have so much control over its press—he controls some 40 percent of newspaper circulation and has huge influence over television, too, with his big stake in BSkyB. Here’s The Observer:

Blair’s deputy director of communications, Lance Price, called Murdoch the 24th member of the cabinet. “His presence was always felt,” he wrote. “No big decision could ever be made inside Number 10 without taking account of the likely reaction of three men – Gordon Brown, John Prescott and Rupert Murdoch. On all the really big decisions, anybody else could safely be ignored.” That is almost certainly true of the new government and Andy Coulson is seen as the key facilitator of Rupert’s habitual privilege.

Andy Coulson is the former News of the World editor who headed the paper while it hacked the royal family’s—and hundreds’ and perhaps thousands of others’—phones and listened to their voicemails.

That News of the World scandal and coverup continues to unravel, and Murdoch’s influence is one of the key stories there. It looks for all the world as if Scotland Yard was so in debt to and/or scared of News Corporation that it wouldn’t investigate the crimes properly—and even helped cover them up.

Guess who’s also on the Murdoch payroll? The Scotland Yard cop who headed up the failed investigation.

The Guardian quotes from an upcoming Channel 4 documentary, which reports that the influence is hardly limited to the indirect “you-don’t-know-what-I-might-do-so-watch-out” variety:

Adam Price, one of the MPs from the media select committee which last year investigated the phone-hacking scandal, described how he stopped voting to compel News International’s chief executive, Rebekah Brooks, to be called as a witness.

“I was told by a senior Conservative member of the committee, who I knew was in direct contact with executives at News International, that if we went for her, they would go for us – effectively that they would delve into our personal lives in order to punish them.”

The Labour MP Tom Watson said he was threatened in 2006 after he called for Tony Blair to resign at a time when News International was supporting him.

“A very senior News International journalist told me that Rebekah would never forgive me for what I did and that she would pursue me through parliament for the rest of my time as an MP,” he said.

Adam Price: a modern-day Profile in Courage! But I digress.

This is the corporation that has more than half of the leading candidates for president of the United States on its payroll.


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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu. Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.