News Corporation released its fiscal fourth quarter earnings on Wednesday--the company's first earnings release since the phone hacking scandal erupted in July. The Rupert Murdoch-led media giant reported operating income of $8.98 billion in revenue during the quarter, and operating income of $982 million ($0.35 per share) compared to $902 million ($0.33 per share) reported in the fourth quarter a year ago--beating Wall Street estimates.
But the media is more interested in the earnings call with investors, scheduled to take place at 4:30 p.m.--the first time financial analysts and selected media members will have a chance to publicly grill Murdoch and co. about all things Hackgate.
The Cutline will be live-blogging the call. Refresh this page for updates:
4:05 p.m.: Murdoch's statement from the release: "While it has been a good quarter from a financial point of view, our company has faced challenges in recent weeks relating to our London tabloid, News of the World. We are acting decisively in the matter and will do whatever is necessary to prevent something like this from ever occurring again. It is important to note that there has been no material impact on our other operations. Our broad, diverse group of businesses across the globe is extremely strong today. The drivers of our businesses are intact, our position is strong and our future is promising."
4:34 p.m.: The call is underway, with Murdoch, News Corp. chief operating officer Chase Carey and chief financial officer Dave DeVoe.
4:35 p.m.: After boasting about News Corp.'s balance sheet, a defiant Murdoch addresses the phone hacking case: "Let me make my position clear. I've run this company more than 50 years. The kind of behavior that occurred in that newsroom has no place at News Corporation."
4:36 p.m.: "The board and I agree I should continue to be our CEO," Murdoch says. "Make no mistake, [News Corp. chief operating officer] Chase Carey and I run this company as a team."
4:37 p.m.: More Murdoch:"We will continue to do whatever is necessary to prevent something like this from ever happening again. There can be no doubt about our commitment to ethics and integrity." (Like Murdoch's remarks during his appearance before Parliament last month, it appears he's reading from a script here.)
4:38 p.m.: Murdoch says that--despite reports to the contrary--Joel Klein is leading the internal investigation of News Corp. and News International's phone hacking activities. Murdoch assures investors that the scandal has had "no material impact on our operations." That is, except for the shuttering of News of the World, and the
4:39 p.m.: Murdoch turns the call over to DeVoe.
4:45 p.m.: DeVoe assures Wall Street that the headache known as MySpace is over. The once-relevant social network--which News Corp. sold during the quarter, generated $230 million in operating losses over the last year, DeVoe says.
4:49 p.m.: DeVoe turns the call over to Carey, who highlights more financial strengths--including News Corp.'s television operations, like Fox News. No phone hacking talk.
4:55 p.m.: The Q+A portion. Financial analysts are up first. Questions from the media will follow at approximately 5:15 p.m.
4:59 p.m.: Based on their questions so far, the financial community doesn't seem to care much about the phone hacking scandal. They're more concerned about how the volatile U.S. economy might impact Fox's ad sales.
5:00 p.m.: Just realized that if this trio of News Corp. executives were to start an R&B group, they could call themselves "Rupe Chase DeVoe."
5:08 p.m.: Carey gives a rather long-winded response to another analyst's question. "Chase Carey hoping to run out a clock with these rambling answers," Adweek deputy editor Chip Bayers noted on Twitter.
5:10 p.m.: Murdoch and Carey scoff at a question about underwhelming ratings for the Fox Business channel. "It's a big growth area for us," Carey says.
5:17 p.m.: Murdoch is asked if his feelings about newspapers have changed in light of the phone hacking scandal, and if he would consider getting rid of any of them off. Murdoch's answer: No.
5:22 p.m.: Murdoch and co. asked to give financial guidance on News of the World's closing. "We have to get to the bottom of this," Murdoch says. "Were there a dozen guilty people or two dozen? We are cooperating 100 percent with the police in their investigation."
5:28 p.m.: Finally, the media gets to ask some questions. "Do you think the board will support James running the company in the near future?" Murdoch: "Well, I hope the job won't be open in the near future." Laughter in the executive suite ensues.
5:30 p.m.: Much to the chagrin of the media members on the call, Carey announces that this will be the final question. NPR's David Folkenflik tries to ask Murdoch about the perception that the News Corp. board has gotten too cozy with those looking into the phone hacking allegations. "No, I won't acknowledge that," Murdoch fired back. Viet Dinh--News Corp. board member and apparent "best friend" of the U.S. district attorney overseeing the federal investigation into the company's illegal activities--is a "completely independent director."