Wednesday 26 August 2009

Newspapers must 'collude for survival'

Tim Rutten in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece has argued that Congress should grant the newspaper industry exemption from antitrust and price-fixing laws so that publishers and proprietors can, as he puts it, "collude for survival".
Rutten's piece notes Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. recently approached the owners of the LA Times, the New York Times, the Washington Post and Hearst Corp. about joining a consortium that would charge for online news content.
He says Murdoch "understands that what's required for serious -- which is to say expensive-to-produce -- journalism to survive is that all the quality English-language papers and news sites agree to charge for Web access and then mercilessly sue anyone who makes more than fair use of their work without paying a fee."
Rutten adds: "Putting aside the irony of the man who probably has done more to undermine serious English-language news coverage than anybody else in our lifetimes now proposing to save it, Murdoch is right, and newspaper proprietors should elect his proposal or one of the others also being discussed -- and soon."
He concludes: "Newspaper proprietors with as serious an interest in their readers' interest as their own bottom lines ought to follow Murdoch's unlikely lead into a consortium of pay-to-view news websites or adopt one of the other proposed models as quickly as practical. Congress should enact the legislation required to allow them to act and price collectively, which has to be done if any of these schemes are to work. Unless our lawmakers empower the newspaper industry to act on its readers' behalf, it's only a matter of time until there are too few serious sources of quality -- or "premium" -- journalism to guarantee the reality of the free press on which all the 1st Amendment's indispensable liberties depend."
Via the Newspaper Project

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