Murdoch: ‘Tech giants should face more scrutiny’

NEWS Corp co-chairman Lachlan Murdoch has revealed what he thinks is the biggest threat to journalism as he lashed out at the impact tech companies have had on the media.

Mr Murdoch was speaking in Cannes, France, at an event with Mark Read, chief executive officer of global advertising and public relations agency WPP, about the future of the media.

The 47-year-old said Fox Corporation would be a growth business, with the recently completed $A100 billion deal to sell US entertainment assets to Disney providing access to capital either to buy new businesses or to invest in existing assets.

 

Lachlan Murdoch, CEO and Chairman of Fox, sat down with Mark Read, CEO of WPP. Picture: Ella Pellegrini
Lachlan Murdoch, CEO and Chairman of Fox, sat down with Mark Read, CEO of WPP. Picture: Ella Pellegrini

Online subscriptions for news sites in the group were growing and the company was diversifying its revenue, he said.

The group's newspapers in Australia, including The Australian, The Daily Telegraph, Herald Sun, The Courier-Mail, and The Advertiser, last month passed 500,000 paid digital subscriptions.

"We are a very different company sitting here today than we were sitting here three or four years ago," he said.

Mr Murdoch said audiences of the mastheads were still strong and provided opportunities to leverage new businesses from them.

"You still have the trust of the mastheads, whether it's The Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Australian, The Sun. You have the trust and engagement that our readers have built over a lifetime with the added benefits of the digital age," he said.

Lachlan Murdoch lauded the growth of News Corp’s Australian business. Picture: Ella Pellegrini
Lachlan Murdoch lauded the growth of News Corp’s Australian business. Picture: Ella Pellegrini

Mr Murdoch pointed to the success of REA Group, which operates realestate.com.au and is now worth $A12.5 billion, as an example of how the marketing power of the news outlets helped build new businesses.

It comes as News Corp recently acquired full ownership of Sky News Australia, which has driven increased audience numbers, particularly on the night of the May Federal Election.

Mr Murdoch added: "Investing in journalism, breaking stories and moving the news cycle ahead is important to us, journalism is at the core of all we do."

Mr Read asked him about how his father, News Corp executive chairman Rupert Murdoch, would encourage him to read the newspapers each morning as a child.

"We used to have to be at breakfast very early and we went through all the newspapers every morning," he said.

Cannes Lions Festival 2019. Lachlan Murdoch, CEO and Chairman of Fox in conversation with Mark Read, CEO of WPP. Picture: Ella Pellegrini
Cannes Lions Festival 2019. Lachlan Murdoch, CEO and Chairman of Fox in conversation with Mark Read, CEO of WPP. Picture: Ella Pellegrini

"We would talk about the stories, how they were projected, the style, how they were written, the headlines and that imbued in us an appreciation for the print business but also an appreciation of the creative processes."

But Mr Murdoch said there were threats to journalism from plagiarism.

He said that internet search platforms needed to be aware of online sites copying news stories and argued they should promote news articles from companies that invested in journalism.

"So many online news sites and purported online newspapers copy other people's work and the search algorithms can, and really should, take that into consideration," he said.

"Copying a story is much cheaper than investigating it."

Lachlan Murdoch also spoke about threats to journalism from plagiarism. Picture: Ella Pellegrini
Lachlan Murdoch also spoke about threats to journalism from plagiarism. Picture: Ella Pellegrini

The discussion was held on the beach at Cannes, alongside similar tents set up by Facebook and Google, for the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity where advertising agencies from across the world meet each year.

Mr Murdoch said there was a debate in political circles about the role of technology companies and their impact on the production of journalism.

"They've taken our content, they've targeted our audience, they have then targeted our advertisers to monetise that audience," he said.

"What it has led to and certainly in the United States, is bipartisan focus on either how to regulate or do more dramatic steps to pull some of these technology platforms back."

 

stephen.drill@news.co.uk



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