Murdoch Shares Vision of Media - and Political - Futures

15 March 2006

At an age when many of his peers dwell on past glories, the chairman of News Corporation, who celebrated his seventy-fifth birthday last weekend, prefers to confront the future.

In the venerable surroundings of London's Stationers Hall Rupert Murdoch shared with The Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers his vision of the newspaper industry's new Millennium.

According to the feisty sage, the whiff of printers' ink on paper will all but vanish, ceding to new media channels such as cellphones, iPods - even PlayStation Portables - if today's newspaper publishers are to survive in the digital age.

Murdoch waxed Wellsian as he spoke to his audience of a future in which "media becomes like fast food". Readers and viewers will consume "news, sport and film clips on the go" on devices such as "Sony's PSP, or others already in test by [NewsCorp's] satellite companies".

As attentive to its master as Nipper to the Victrola, NewsCorp-owned The Times of London faithfully dwelled on the great man's words.

"Crucially, newspapers must give readers a choice of accessing their journalism in the pages of the paper, or on websites such as Times Online or - and this is important - on any platform that appeals to them, mobile phones, handheld devices, iPods, whatever."

The new consumer trends, said Murdoch, also mean that power is shifting from "the old elite in our industry - the editors, the chief executives, and let's face it, the proprietors" toward a "new media audience" that uses the internet and new technology "to inform, entertain and above all to educate themselves".

"Radio did not destroy newspapers, television did not destroy radio, and neither eliminated the printing of books. Each wave of new technology in our industry forced an improvement in the old."

At which point the billionaire tycoon, having completed his warm-up exercises, switched to geopolitical mode, hailing an era in which "the fusion of technology and science allied to the natural creativity embedded in the human spirit will enable us to surmount the dangers we undoubtedly face".

Echoing the language of President George W Bush, Murdoch asked: "Can we find victory over a new and harrowing form of terrorism carried out in the name of Islam?" And, lo, Murdoch answered: "We should not fool ourselves. There are no civilians and no chance of a negotiated peace in this war."

Those familiar with the editorial leanings of NewsCorp's newspapers and TV news channels can guess the rest. The Grand Old Man then warned of "unstable regimes in North Korea and Iran that are bent on, and very close to, developing nuclear weapons."

Nor could he resist a poke at "the old nations of Europe," questioning their ability to "cope with the economic rise of nations such as China and India".

No-one in the audience was discourteous enough to suggest that old Europe might just manage to cope by emulating the Bush administration's record 2005 trade deficit of $723 billion.

Data sourced from The Times Online (UK); additional content by WARC staff