Embattled News Corporation puts its money into more old-time religion

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation has hardly seemed to be on the side of the angels recently, still suffering the fall-out from the News of the World phone hacking scandal.

Among other things this cost it the long-desired $12bn deal to buy the 61 per cent of British pay-TV operator BSkyB it doesn’t already own.

But now the company, which also owns the right wing, some would say fundamentalist, Fox News Channel in the US, is spending some of the money it wanted to spend on BSkyB on expanding its religious publishing interests.

Through its Harper Collins book publishing subsidiary it is splashing out about $400m on Thomas Nelson, the biggest religious publisher in the US, to add to its Zondervan business, the second-biggest religious publisher in the US and the number one bible publisher.

This is News Corp’s biggest deal since last year’s $360m purchase of digital education company Wireless Generation, a deal which also came close to being derailed by the phone hacking scandal.

The book market is hardly thriving of course, although ebooks may change that. But some may see this latest acquisition as a good fit with Fox, which is closely aligned with the bible-bashing right wing of the Republican Party.

Harper Collins CEO Brian Murray says: “Thomas Nelson adds further balance to our existing publishing programmes. Its broad inspirational appeal is a good complement to Zondervan, which will continue to publish books consistent with its mission.”

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.