Dan Sabbagh added a new angle to the News of The World phone-hacking scandal this morning, connecting the scandal to News Corp’s takeover bid for BSkyB. Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt is due to make a decision over the controversial bid this month.
Hunt, whose verdict is due this month, would have to argue that there is no danger of about the media power of an enlarged News Corp/Sky at a time when the tactics of its senior reporters are in the spotlight again.
He may yet do so, but the political risks of him letting the Murdoch deal go through at the first time of asking just multiplied – when he has the easier alternative of asking for the Competition Commission to look at the implications of the deal in more detail.
A formal investigation by the competition commissioner, Joaquín Almunia, will not begin until News Corp makes its notification. Rupert Murdoch, chief executive, said on 4 August that News Corp would notify the EU “very shortly” and sources have now said it is “imminent”.
While other large US media companies have made political donations, News Corp’s June payment was notable both for its size and the lack of a corresponding donation to the democrats. It is customary to split donations between the two parties.
In the past, News Corp. has also spread its donations between candidates of both parties. The huge gift to the RGA raised questions among some media critics about whether News Corp. had crossed over an inappropriate line for a media company. The second donation is likely to rekindle that debate – and to make both News Corp. Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch and Fox News even more of a liberal target.
Delving into the numbers, the BMI looks at who’s donating what and where, including stats on News Corp.’s previous donations to the Democrats – asking if those criticising the corporation for this latest sum are missing out some vital, balancing figures.
Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. has come under fire for making a $1 million donation to the Republican Governors Association (RGA), the largest corporate donation to the RGA in this cycle. According to Politico’s Keith Hagey, it is common for companies to give to both the Republicans and Democrats, “both to hedge their bets and to maintain a sense of even-handedness”. But this donation, writes Hagey, “isn’t business as usual – in either size or style”.
And it’s got media analysts and political pros wondering just what News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch – the man behind Fox News and the Wall Street Journal — is up to now.
News Corp., which owns Fox News and the Wall Street Journal in the US, has denied that the donation relates to the editorial activity of its media outlets.
News Corporation believes in the power of free markets, and the RGA’s pro-business agenda supports our priorities at this most critical time for our economy,” News Corp. Spokesman Jack Horner said. He told the Washington Post: “It’s patently false that a corporate donation would have any bearing on our news-gathering activities at Fox News or any other of our properties.
“We’re especially pleased with this investment because News Corp. is the industry leader in making the case that there is value in journalism online for which readers will be willing to pay,” says Crovitz in the release.
Journalism Online says its Press+ system will offer newspapers and publishers a range of paywall options from metered access, such as that used by the Financial Times’ website, and give users a common login across the sites it serves.
During a News Corp earnings call on Tuesday (4 May), Rupert Murdoch hinted at some ‘important announcements’ for new subscription plans – beyond what we already know about paywalls. paidContent:UK reports (and speculates):
“We’ll be giving a press conference in about three to four weeks which we hope will have some important announcements in,” Murdoch said. Will this mechanism charge for entertainment as well as news, a caller asked? “Oh, you bet,” Murdoch said. “Everybody’s been negotiating with Apple about television shows, films – we do VOD, everything’s on there.” Will it be a competitor to iTunes Store, asked the questioner? “I guess so; an extension of it,” Murdoch replied.
The broad, cross-media nature of whatever it is Murdoch will unveil is intriguing. The new Times websites will cost £1 a day, £2 a week or free with a print subscription – but details on the latter bundle are as yet scant, leaving the model on its own looking rather rudimentary. Perhaps earlier speculation, that Times Online could charge subs along with a BSkyB satellite TV subscription for example, aren’t so far-fetched after all? And who could rule out lumping other News Corp offerings – say, movie tickets – in as well?
The companies have declined to comment, but the FT reports that Microsoft – which owns search engine Bing – has entered discussions with News Corp ‘over a plan that would involve the media company’s being paid to ‘de-index’ its news websites from Google’.
“The impetus for the discussions came from News Corp, owner of newspapers ranging from the Wall Street Journal of the US to The Sun of the UK, said a person familiar with the situation, who warned that talks were at an early stage.
“However, the Financial Times has learnt that Microsoft has also approached other big online publishers to persuade them to remove their sites from Google’s search engine.”
Following his comments last month in which he described aggregators as ‘kleptomaniacs’ and ‘plagiarists’, Rupert Murdoch has suggested News Corp could remove its sites from Google’s index.
Speaking in an interview with Australia’s Sky News (video below): “I think we will [remove our content from Google’s index]. But that’s when we start charging.”
As Mumbrella explains: “Using the robots.txt protocol on a site indicates to automated web spiders such as Google’s not to index that particular page or to serve up links to it in users’ search results.”
In the interview, Murdoch also discusses what could be put behind potential news site pay walls.
Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp is ahead in the $800m-plus auction for the Travel Channel, ‘in a twist to a process that has underscored the revival in media moguls’ confidence on the industry outlook’, reports the FT.