Murdoch: newspapers will be gone in 20 years

Adam Hooker
Friday, April 27, 2012

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch has predicted the death of the newspaper within the next 20 years, as he gave his view on the future of press regulation to the Leveson inquiry yesterday morning (26 April).

Towards the end of his second day of giving evidence, Murdoch was given the chance to give his opinion on the threats facing the printed press and the risk posed by greater regulation.

Commenting on the rise of "disruptive technologies" that could not be properly regulated, Murdoch said: "The fact is, the internet came along, slowly developed as a source of news, and is now absolutely in our space. And it is responsible for a loss of circulation."

"Certain things can be done to control the major players," he added. "But in the long run it is too wide. You have blogs coming from Beijing and the Cayman Islands and you can't regulate that. The danger of putting regulations in place is that in 10 years you will have no press to regulate.

"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 because it is really a very complex situation. The press today guarantees democracy and we want democracy rather than autocracy - I think that we would all agree with that in this room."

Murdoch added that newspapers were "a huge benefit to society" and had had a "good run", which he partly took credit for in terms of making the UK industry profitable again, but said that the run had come to an end because of the rise of new technologies.

He said: "In five years time there will be a billion tablets; smart telephones will probably be double that. There is very little cost of entry there; there is great cost of entry for newspapers.

"I think we'll have, in quite a while – not 10 years; some people say five, but I am inclined to say 20 – we will have very small circulations. The day will come when [Publishers] will say we can't afford the big presses and we will be purely electronic."

He also defended local newspapers and pointed to the BBC, which has developed a vast number of local newspaper websites, as one of the major reasons they have faced particular difficulties.

Murdoch added: "The local press in this country has a great history of contribution to democracy and it will be a very sad day if the major ones – if all of them – disappear.

"I don't know that they can be saved. They could be saved from the BBC, but I'm not sure that would be enough."

Murdoch also issued a mea culpa in relation to the News of the World, saying at one point: "Let us be quite honest - it was an aberration and it's my fault."

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