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Rupert Murdoch: Looking at the future

This is the jump page for rough, contemporaneous notes of today's U.S. Federal Trade Commission workshop: "From Town Crier to Blogggers: How Will journalism Survive the Internet Age," held Dec. 1-2, 2009, in Washington, D.C., at the FTC's 601 New Jersey Avenue offices. Your scribe is Bill Densmore, a fellow at the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism. Of course we've tried to provide accurate quotes and summaries. But the FTC has stenographers recording all of the testimony and that should be your definitive source. The home page for this coverage is http://www.newshare.com/wiki/index.php/ftc


"It is a credit to this agency that a wide variety of views are represented today," says Murdoch. He credits Steiger and Edmonds for reports on the history of journalism. He says he'll talk about the future of journalism.

He says the future of newspapers is bright, so long as government doesn't overregulate or subsidize. He says newspapers have stood up to the rich and powerful. With the Internet, millions more people have the ability to rise in society, hold government accountable and pursue their dreams.

Some newspapers will fail. We shouldn't blame technology for that, says Murdoch. Those that prosper will find new ways to meet the needs of their readers and users. But for the news business to propose, he says there are three things that need to happen.

  • Media companies must deliver the news people want in the formats they want it in.
  • Convince people that journalism is worth paying for
  • Government must clear the path for growth and investment

He elaborates on all three.

Delivering news people want

News organizations with declining circulation and a wall of journalism awards aren't doing the job of looking out for the needs and interest of their readers, says Murdoch.

He talks about what News Corp. is doing. He is working on using their TV spectrum space to bring news information to their wireless consumers. (Densmore comment: This is not something I've heard of before -- Murdoch seems to be saying he is working to create an alternate path to mobile devices using broadcast spectrum?)

He says News Corp. is pursuing delivery via e-readers -- but he says "we have no intention of getting into the hardware business" but intends to work with all platforms. He says the company is increasing its spending on journalism. He says Fox-owned news stations added 50 hours of news this year, airing 700 hours of local news. He says the WSJ offers more national and international news than before he owned it.

"I often make the point that . . . We are in the news business, not the dead-tree business."

Quality content not free, Murdoch says


"A business model dependent primarily on advertising is dead," says Murdoch. "Although online advertising is increasing, that increase is only a fraction of what is being lost in print advertising. That is not going to change, even in a boom." He says the old model was based on a "quasi-monopoly" by newspapers.

"In the new business model we will be charging consumers for the news that we offer on our Internet sites," Murdoch says. "... We intend to expand this model to all of our news organizations in the News Corp. stable."

"Critics say news consumers won't pay. I believe they will ... when we give them something of value."

All under the talent veil of fair use. "

"There almost wholesale misappropriation of our stories is not fair use. To be impolite, it is theft ... producing good journalism is expensive."

"The truth is that the aggregators need news organizations. Without content to distribute .... screens would be blank slates." Right now producers have the cost, aggregators have the money. "There is no such thing as a free news story and we are going to ensure that we get a modest price for the value that we provide."

'The government has no role here'

He says regulation of news in the 21st century is based on 20th-century models. He says government should get rid of arbitrary regulations that prevent people from investing. He complains about the FTC's cross-ownership rule for broadcast properties. He says the rule stifles competition. He says competion in markets now goes cross media.

He says "the drumbeat for assistance for newspapers" is as alarming as regulation. He poo-poos non-profit ownership of papers. "The prospect of the U.S. government becoming directly involved in commercial journalism ought to be chilling to anyone who believes in freedom of speech," says Murdoch.

He wraps up: Let news organizations innovate, give news to customers how they want it, when they want it, ask people to pay, let aggregators desist and start employing their own journalists, and keep government out of propping up failing businesses.

Although the topic today is journalism: "I think we do better to think of the future of democracy."