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Rupert Murdoch proprietor of News Corporation and whose newspaper portfolio includes The Sun, Times, News of the World and The Sunday Times, has announced that he will be charging customers for all online content.
The fear is that if Murdoch ends free online news in the Britain, as it has in the US; other UK newspapers may be forced to follow such as the Guardian, Daily Mail and The Independent.
Mr Murdoch is no stranger to setting benchmarks in the industry; in the 1980s he turned Fleet Street on its head by moving the headquarters of his newspapers to an industrial estate in Wapping after disputes with trade unions. They are still based there today, setting a precedent that was soon followed by other news organisations.
One major problem for News Corporation and all other newspapers trying to deal with the collapse in advertising revenues during the credit crunch is that the BBC’s globally established website is funded by the taxpayer. Critics argue that this guaranteed fixed income skews the market too far in the BBC’s favour.
“Dumping free, state sponsored journalism on the marketplace makes it hard for journalism to flourish on the internet. Yet it is essential for the future of independent digital journalism that a fair price can be charged for people who value it.” James Murdoch, Chairman of News International addressing the Media Guardian's Edinburgh TV Festival said.
The BBC estimates that it spends £180m a year on news gathering which is more than its competing news organisations spent all together.
Whether the UK public who pays can get online news free as part of their licence fee will pay for alternative sources remains to be seen, but recent
Recent opinion suggests that the licence fee is seen as good value for money.
Mark Thompson Director General of the BBC recently said in a staff briefing: “We need to pick our fights, and responding to every attack will not win us any friends. We need to ensure that we continue to provide the quality and the content that license fee payers want. This is a moment to keep our nerve.”
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