News Corp’s Murdoch Urges Facebook to Pay Publishers for Content

Rupert Murdoch, the executive chairman of News Corp., in London last summer.

News Corp Executive Chairman Rupert Murdoch said if Facebook Inc. FB 0.45% is serious about promoting “trusted content” and filtering fake news out of its news feed, it should pay publishers fees similar to those cable distributors pay to television channels.

Mr. Murdoch’s comments on Monday follow Facebook’s announcement last week that it plans to rank news sources based on credibility, part of its efforts to rein in false information on its platform.

“Publishers are obviously enhancing the value and integrity of Facebook through their news and content but are not being adequately rewarded for those services,” Mr. Murdoch said in a statement.

News Corp is the parent company of Dow Jones, which publishes The Wall Street Journal.

A spokesman for Facebook didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Murdoch and other publishing executives have spoken in the past about Facebook’s dominant position in publishing and advertising, and argued it has a responsibility to support genuine news sources.

Mr. Murdoch is pushing Facebook to adopt the system of “carriage fees” that cable- and satellite-TV providers pay to carry cable-television channels and offer them to customers. The distributors pay a specified amount per month for each subscriber. It is a major source of revenue and growth for TV-channel owners.

His proposal indicates how the changes to Facebook’s news feed are raising the stakes for media companies. Facebook’s new policies, including the trustworthiness ranking and an earlier shift aimed at promoting content that triggers more user interactions, have created anxiety and uncertainty for publishers. Some are worried their content might wind up having less reach on Facebook.

Facebook said it would begin testing the credibility-ranking this week by prioritizing news reports that users have rated in Facebook surveys as trustworthy. The most “broadly trusted” publications would get a boost in the feed, while those that users rate low on trust would be penalized.

“We will closely follow the latest shift in Facebook’s strategy, and I have no doubt that [Facebook Chief Executive] 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,” Mr. Murdoch said. “Carriage payments would have a minor impact on Facebook’s profits but a major impact on the prospects for publishers and journalists.”

Mr. Murdoch is also the executive chairman of 21st Century Fox Inc., which owns numerous television properties that earn substantial revenue from carriage fees.

Facebook has worked with publishers to create a structure allowing users to subscribe to publications through the social-media company’s platforms, but Mr. Murdoch said the efforts so far haven’t been enough.

“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,” he said.

Publishers have lobbied Facebook intensively to take a more active role in weeding out low-quality and false stories and to prioritize news coming from established and respected media outlets. News Corp has long been critical of the power over distribution held by big digital platforms such as Facebook and Alphabet Inc.’s Google.

Mr. Murdoch said that it was a positive step that both companies had recognized that their role in spreading unreliable news was a problem, but that “the remedial measures that both companies have so far proposed are inadequate, commercially, socially and journalistically.”

A spokeswoman for Google didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Write to Lukas I. Alpert at lukas.alpert@wsj.com

Appeared in the January 23, 2018, print edition as ‘Murdoch to Facebook: Pay for News Content.’

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