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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

media wars « Previous | |Next »
May 23, 2010

The Murdochs and News Ltd don't like, or are hostile to, public broadcasters such as the BBC and the ABC doing their job of providing information to citizens. They see public broadcasters and their free content as a big threat to their media business, and they would like to see public broadcasters kneecapped so that we consumers are forced to buy more of the Murdoch media product. Nothing should be free in their world of paid-for content, with access to information being based on paying for that access.

Hence the Murdoch's big shift to putting their digital content behind pay walls --eg., News Corp.'s Times Online For them there's only one way forward for the future marked by by ongoing structural change compounded by flatter advertising growth, and its their paid-for content model, even though it is deliberately downsizing their audience. Journalism for the Murdochs is a commodity, not a democratic necessity.

Recently the Murdoch's attack on public institutions providing free information to citizens was broadened with James Murdoch's attack on the British Library's plan to digitise up to 40m newspaper pages and then make them available online. They will include papers - local, regional and national - dating back to the early 1700s and will make accessing them by the public academics and working journalists.

For the Murdoch's this is yet another example of unfair competition by subsidised public institutions increasing their audience so they capture more users and gained more funding. In his speech James Murdoch said:

Take the current controversy over the library's intention to provide unrestricted access to digital material. Material that publishers originally produced – and continue to make available – for commercial reasons. Like the search business, but motivated by different concerns, the public sector interest is to distribute content for near-zero cost – harming the market in so doing, and then justifying increased subsidies to make up for the damage it has inflicted.

The case of the British Library goes even further. Just yesterday, the library announced the digitisation of their newspaper archive – originally given to them by publishers as a matter of legal obligation.This is not simply being done for posterity, nor to make free access for library users easier, but also for commercial gain via a paid for website. The move is strongly opposed by major publishers. If it goes ahead, free content would not only be a justification for more funding, but actually become a source of funds for a public body.

The Murdoch's want a slice of the action--a cut--because the British Library's move would undermine News Corps paid-for content model. Their approach is making money rather than good journalism or public information to help democratic citizens empowering themselve.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 10:17 AM |