Murdoch is generally regarded as the single most politically influential media proprietor in the world, and is regularly courted by politicians, especially current and past British and Australian Prime Ministers, who attempt to persuade him to run favourable coverage. His politics are generally right-wing, though he apparently favours republicanism over monarchy and is said to have refused a peerage from Queen Elizabeth II. Murdoch's political perspective seems multi-faceted. For instance, while at Oxford he was active in the Labour Club. He actively supported the Australian Labor Party for decades, with the exception of the dying days of the Whitlam Government.
He is sometimes accused of running partisan media coverage for political parties that promote policies and decisions which favour his commercial interests. For example, it is believed that Murdoch tried to suppress publication of the memoirs of Chris Patten, the last British Governor of Hong Kong, in an attempt to curry favour with the mainland Chinese political leadership; Patten's book was very critical of the Chinese government. Whatever the motives, the book was dropped from publication by Murdoch's HarperCollins book publishing company. It was only because of Pattern's political influence that the story came to light and the book was later published by a non-News Corporation house. It is speculated that Murdoch wanted to please the Chinese government because it happened around the time he was attempting to get a foot-hold in the Chinese market with the launch of Star TV.
In his early years of newspaper ownership Murdoch was an aggressive, micromanaging entrepreneur, notably taking on British printers' unions to reduce his staff costs, and exploiting the selling power of soft-core erotica in the form of page three girls (such as Samantha Fox) to increase circulation. Private Eye dubbed him "The Dirty Digger", a name that has endured.
During 1986-1987, the confrontation with the unions NGA and SOGAT was considerable. The move of News International's London operation from Fleet Street to Wapping resulted in nightly battles and riots outside the new plant and TNT (a delivery operation then owned by Murdoch and used to deliver newspapers during the disturbances); lorries and depots were frequently and violently attacked.
Prior to the Wapping dispute, English newspapers were victims of extraordinary corruption. Phantom employees, gross overstaffing, "inheriting" of jobs by family members, theft of supplies and other malpractice were common place throughout Fleet Street, not just at Murdoch's properties. Murdoch's competitors soon removed the worst excesses of unions from their workplaces.
In 1985 Murdoch became a United States citizen in order to satisfy current legislation that only United States citizens could own American television stations—and yet also managed to have himself defined as an Australian citizen in order to retain his ownership of Australian media outlets. In 1987 he purchased The Herald and Weekly Times Ltd in Australia, the company that his father Keith Murdoch had once managed. By 1991 his Australian-based News Corporation, Limited had amassed huge debts which necessitated Murdoch to sell many of the American magazine interests that he acquired in the mid-1980s. In 1995 Murdoch's Fox Network became the object of intense scrutiny from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) after the case that Murdoch's foreign ownership of Fox Broadcasting contravened current legislation. The FCC, however, ruled in Murdoch's favour, stating that his ownership of Fox Broadcasting was in the public's best interests. In the same year Murdoch announced a deal with MCI to develop a major news website as well as funding a magazine, The Weekly Standard, about politics that has a pronounced right-wing view.
Murdoch divorced from Anna Murdoch in 1998 and married Wendi Deng, a junior executive in News Corporation's Asian operations 40 years his junior, soon afterward. He has four children from his previous marriage; his adult son Lachlan Murdoch was expected to take over running the corporation at some stage in the future. However, in November 2003, another son, James Murdoch, was appointed head of Murdoch's BritishSkyBroadcasting operations, amid accusations of nepotism from shareholders.
Murdoch is seeking to acquire DirecTV in 2003 for US$6 billion, adding another crucial piece to his empire. Among his trophy properties around the world are The Times of London (acquired in 1981 from the Thomson family, who had bought it from the Astor interests in 1966) and the New York Post (he turned the Post from New York's most liberal paper into its most conservative).