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The desperate moves of an empire in decline?

Posted on November 18, 2009. Filed under: Blogroll, media, Rupert Murdoch, This Week in the News |

ABC’s Mark Scott recently took a swipe at Rupert Murdoch, labelling his latest move to charge for online content as the signs of a flailing ruler desperate to maintain his power.

“It strikes me as a classic play of old empire, of empire in decline. Believing that because you once controlled the world you can continue to do so, because you once set the rules, you can do so again,” he said at the A.N Smith Memorial Lecutre in Journalism.

And certainly, Murdoch’s long-interview with Sky Australia (of which he owns a third) revealed a man grappling with an uncertain future.

In thinly veiled threats to those that dare to threaten his dynasty including the BBC, the ABC, Microsoft and Google, Murdoch let his insecurities known.

Commentators have been unsure of how to respond to his plans to put a stop to free online content. On the one hand, few can see it working, but on the other, many journalists hope it will work if only so they can keep their jobs a little longer.

You can’t help but hope he does succeed, if it means a lifeline for the industry, but at what cost to the egalitarian and open nature which has so far defined the web? It would be more comforting if you could believe Murdoch genuinely cared about journalism and the industry and not just his own coffers.

Few too are willing to doubt Murdoch’s business sense too loudly; this is a man who has single-handedly managed to create a global media empire dominant in Australia, Britain and America, with a strong hold on parts of Asia.

However, it is hard to see how removing NewsCorp’s news from Google’s index would be beneficial. Would readers be so loyal as to only look at one news site, which they must pay for not use a search engine? As interviewer Sky News Australia’s political editor David Speers said, Google does drive traffic to News Corp, but “if they are not paying”, said Murdoch, “we don’t want them”. Murdoch is only interested in “serious money” which he argued, cannot be made online with free content. However Times editor James Harding hinted this week the paper may take a softer approach.

However the story unfolds now, it will help define the future of journalism and online content.

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