Rupert Murdoch has predicted there may be no newspapers in 10 years’ time because of the competition from the internet, and urged the government not to “over-regulate” them out of existence.
Murdoch, the News Corporation chairman and chief executive, urged Lord Justice Leveson to take “care” with his recommendations for the future of UK press regulation in the wake of the News of the World phone-hacking scandal and to understand the financial difficulties newspapers were facing.
“We’re dealing in a very complex world with disruptive technologies, and we’re suffering at the hand of those, so when it comes to regulation, I just beg for some care,” he told the Leveson inquiry in London on Thursday. “A varied press guarantees democracy and we want democracy rather than autocracy.”
Murdoch said all papers were under “extreme pressure” from the internet, adding that while some still prefer the “tactile” experience of the printed product, it would not last forever.
“Every newspaper has had a very good run… It’s coming to an end as a result of these disruptive technologies,” he said. “I think we will have both [internet and print news] for quite a while, certainly ten years, some people say five. I’d be more inclined to say 20, but 20 means very small circulations.”
But he warned: “I think you have a danger of regulating, putting regulations in place which will mean there will be no press in 10 years to regulate.”
He said his decision to take on the print unions and face “a very unpleasant and painful strike for a year” gave newspapers a new lease of life back in the 1980s.
But Murdoch added that the internet had sent newspapers’ circulation and advertising revenues into decline and recently forced Johnston Press to turn some of its regional newspapers into weeklies. “The fact is, the internet came along, slowly developed as a source of news, and now is absolutely in our space and I think it’s been responsible for a lot of loss of circulation.”
The media tycoon, who owns three nationals papers in the UK – the Sun, Times and Sunday Times – as well as around 150 national and local papers in Australia, and the New York Post and Wall Street Journal in the US, said the challenge was to turn the internet into an “opportunity”.
He was also critical of the BBC’s online local news service and said it was “one of the reasons why newspaper circulations are in decline”.
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