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Earnings Call: News Corp’s Murdoch: ‘Stringent Cost-Cutting’ But ‘Not Going To Starve Our Business’

imageNews Corp (NYSE: NWS) Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch expects the current slump to extend at least through 2009, telling analysts and investors in today’s earnings call that “our businesses across the board are being challenged by weakening ad markets and weakening currencies.” But, typically, Murdoch is pushing the company’s strengths, including a handy $5 billion cash clip, and balancing talk of “stringent cost-cutting” across “lean” operations with promises that he won’t starve businesses.

Murdoch’s only mention of online in his pre-Q&A remarks was a generic “Internet revenues continue to grow very well.” Some highlights from Q&A:

Fox Interactive Media: COO Peter Chernin: “We’re pleased with the progress … we started off this quarter feeling good but we are beginning to see some softening . … We still believe we’re doing slightly better than the marketplace.” Chernin said the company is trying to find the right balance between aggressively growing revenues and maintaining costs; in the last quarter, cost growth almost exactly matched revenue increases. “We still believe this is a growth category and we should be participating aggressively.” If the ad softness continues, “we’ll ratchet costs down accordingly.” Display advertising was up 16 percent while search rose 10 percent. Asked during the media call if they would provide a realistic growth rate for 2009, Messrs. Murdoch and Chernin declined. Chernin: ” don