Media doubts over Murdoch web charging

The rest of MSM are in a quandary about how to respond to Rupert Murdoch’s decision to charge for on line content from his newspapers. An Observer profile of the Dirty Digger points to the problem.

The tough new conditions have led Murdoch to declare that the era of free news is over, although News Corp insiders say there are still no clear indications about how he intends to persuade people to pay for it.

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The Independent confidently announces that the Financial Times, which already limits subscribers to 10 free hits a month, is planning a wider fee structure.

Senior sources at the FT have confirmed that the group is in discussions with a number of payment processor companies to establish a simple “one -lick” procedure that would enable consumers to pay a small fee for single articles that would otherwise be available only to subscribers.

But from the FT itself not a word about this, just sniffiness about the impact of Murdoch’s announcement.

Everyone in the industry is already spending a lot of time thinking about and testing diversifying revenue streams,” said Geoff Reiss, general manager of Newsweek digital. “The impact [of his comments] is de minimis.”

The key factor in all this is that if one charges they all have to, or else the odd one out goes to the wall. But would it be the one who charges or the one who doesn’t? That’s the quandary. Although it’s clear from the coverage that media groups are playing their cards close to their chests on internet charging, there’s absolutely no hint of unanamity. Some hopes are pinned on Trinity Mirror boss Sly Bailey’s cautious assessment that advertising rates are starting to pick up. She’s among those who blast the BBC’s deal to allow some newspapers to air their news videos, as a cunning plan to appease its critics. Meanwhile, rogue Labour freethinking MP Frank Field, obligingly hosted in the Sunday Times, takes to extremes the idea that the BBC is becoming a victim of its own success.

The BBC is dying. The race is on to save public service broadcasting for the nation. Auntie’s death is not coming about by hostile market forces. The commercial sector of broadcasting is in even worse shape. It is, rather, the steady, remorseless march of the digital revolution that spells the end of the BBC as we have known it.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London

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