Rupert Murdoch calls for Facebook and Google to pay ‘carriage fees’ to publishers

Rupert Murdoch has called for Facebook and Google to be charged ‘carriage fees’ for broadcasting news similar to the charges imposed on US cable-TV operators for carrying content.

In a statement published on the News Corp website, Murdoch claims ‘trusted publishers’ are enhancing Facebook’s and Google’s value and integrity without being compensated for what they provide.

Murdoch: “The time has come to consider a different route”

Murdoch also observed subscription models being proposed by Facebook fail to recognise the investments made by publishers, while stating the digital duopoly’s ideas for solving the problems of publishers “are inadequate, commercially, socially and journalistically”.

Levying cable-TV style carriage – or transmission – fees would see the online services paying a monthly per-user levy for carrying publishers’ content similar to content producers such as ESPN, Fox Sports and CNN charging cable companies for broadcasting their programs.

In Australia, News Corp owned Foxtel pays carriage fees to providers including Sky News but doesn’t pay transmission fees to the free to air TV operators despite arguments from FreeTV that the subscription TV operator should do so.

The comments by News Corps’ executive chairman follow Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement of an overhaul of the social media service’s news feed which will see publishers further disadvantaged.

Over the weekend, Facebook further announced plans to begin prioritising publishers based on how much users trust them.

In a post on his site, Mark Zuckerberg detailed how Facebook will now ask its users whether they’re familiar with a news source and, if so, whether they trust that source. The results of these surveys will determine how widely posts from a particular publisher appear in news feeds.

Facebook declined to comment on the story while Google has been approached. Murdoch’s statement in full follows:

Statement of Rupert Murdoch, Executive Chairman of News Corp, on a Carriage Fee for Trusted Publishers

News Corp today issued the following statement from Executive Chairman, Rupert Murdoch:

“Facebook and Google have popularized scurrilous news sources through algorithms that are profitable for these platforms but inherently unreliable. Recognition of a problem is one step on the pathway to cure, but the remedial measures that both companies have so far proposed are inadequate, commercially, socially and journalistically.

There has been much discussion about subscription models but I have yet to see a proposal that truly recognizes the investment in and the social value of professional journalism. We will closely follow the latest shift in Facebook’s strategy, and I have no doubt that Mark Zuckerberg is a sincere person, but there is still a serious lack of transparency that should concern publishers and those wary of political bias at these powerful platforms.

The time has come to consider a different route. If Facebook wants to recognize ‘trusted’ publishers then it should pay those publishers a carriage fee similar to the model adopted by cable companies. The publishers are obviously enhancing the value and integrity of Facebook through their news and content but are not being adequately rewarded for those services. Carriage payments would have a minor impact on Facebook’s profits but a major impact on the prospects for publishers and journalists.”


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