Note the exact exchange – and the irony of the questioner being a Daily Telegraph reporter, who simply asked for an update on Murdoch’s previous announcement that News Corporation’s news sites would start charging for content by the end of this fiscal year (ie, June 2010). Murdoch replied:
“No. We are working very, very hard at this but I wouldn’t promise that we’re going to meet that date. I’m not prepared to comment on that all. It’s a work in progress. There’s a huge amount of work going on, not just with our sites, but with other people like your company.”
A work in progress? Your company? So Murdoch is in cahoots with the Telegraph Media Group. It may not be a surprise that News Corp is pursuing informal talks with rivals. But it sounds from that quote as if the “work in progress” is altogether more structured and formal. If so, it raises questions that competition regulators should surely investigate. Are the companies – and, perhaps, others, such as Trinity Mirror and Associated – working together to co-ordinate the building of paywalls? That might be ok, but what if they are planning to set a similar fee structure? Then there would be genuine reasons for regulatory concern because that would amount to the forming of a cartel.