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paidContent - James Murdoch In Edinburgh Video & Text: 'Analogue Attitudes In A Digital Age'

This story was written by Staci D. Kramer.


Updated with video excerpts below: Twenty years after his father Rupert Murdoch delivered the MacTaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, chip-off-the-old-block James Murdoch took the stage tonight to lambaste the BBC, decry Ofcom and call for an end to what he calls the “creationist” approach to managing media—the end of “analogue attitudes in a digital age.” The top News Corp (NYSE: NWS). exec for Europe and Asia tossed in “authoritarianism” for good measure, called the UK “the Addams family of world media” and slyly compared the regulatory attitude to bananas. And, of course, a major nod to News Corp.‘s new cause—paying for content: “It is essential for the future of independent digital journalism that a fair price can be charged for news to people who value it.” Murdoch’s bottom line: government bad, profit good. (Or, as my colleague Robert Andrews put it, “Commies=bad, capitalism=good.”) We’ve posted the full text and a pdf of the nearly 5,000-word speech. Video and text excerpts below:

—“So talking about a coming digital future, or a digital transformation, is to ignore the evidence that it has already happened. Why do I think we are getting this wrong? Why do I believe we need to change direction as a matter of urgency? Its quite simple. Because we have analogue attitudes in a digital age. We have business models and a policy framework based on spectrum scarcity. We have limited choice, and we have central planning. The result is lost opportunities for enterprise, free choice and commercial investment.”

—“The number who reject Darwin and cling to the concept of creationism is substantial. And it crops up in some surprising places. For example, right here in the broadcasting sector in the UK. The consensus appears to be that creationism the belief in a managed process with an omniscient authority - is the only way to achieve successful outcomes. There is general agreement that the natural operation of the market is inadequate, and that a better outcome can be achieved through the wisdom and activity of governments and regulators.”

—“We are on the wrong path - but we can find the right one. The right path is all about trusting and empowering consumers. It is about embracing private enterprise and profit as a driver of investment, innovation and independence. And the dramatic reduction of the activities of the state in our sector.”

—“The problems of the terrestrial broadcasters are not about the economic downturn, although it has thrown the issue into sharp relief. It is not a coincidence that Google (NSDQ: GOOG) has a higher percentage of advertising spending in the UK than anywhere else in the world: it is a consequence of a tightly restricted commercial television sector. That money will not come back. It is not that ad-funded television is dead: it is just a permanently smaller fish in a bigger pond.”

— “We dont even have the basics in place to protect creative work. Whether its shoplifting at HMV or pirating the same movie online, theft is theft. They are both crimes and should be treated accordingly. The govrnment dithers dimly aware of what it has to do but afraid to do it.”

—“The investment climate in media in the UK reminds me of Tolstoys dictum that all happy families resemble one another, while each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. ... The problem with the UK is that it is unhappy in every way: its the Addams family of world media.”

—“Would we welcome a world in which The Times was told by the government how much religious coverage it had to carry? In which there were a state newspaper with more money than the rest of the sector put together and 50 percent of the market? In which cinemas were instructed how many ads they were allowed to put before the main feature? In which Bloomsbury had to publish an equal number of pro-capitalist and pro-socialist books? And, of course, we had to pay for an Ofpress to make sure all these rules were observed? No, of course we would not. So why do we continue to assume that this approach is appropriate for broadcasting: especially as one communications medium is now barely distinguishable from another?”



By Staci D. Kramer

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