News Corp's Murdoch calls on China to open market
Beijing: Media baron Rupert Murdoch on Friday called on China to follow other Asian nations in opening its media market, and reiterated his recent mantra that people must pay for content from struggling global media companies.
Despite its huge potential, China has been one of the most difficult markets for global media companies including Murdoch's News Corp, not only because of strict limitations on their activities there but also as a result of rampant content piracy.
Speaking at a media forum in Beijing, Murdoch said that within Asia, News Corp had experienced a much better time in India, where its Star pay TV service had enjoyed large success. Even in Japan's relatively closed market, the company had seen signs of recent improvement.
"Many years ago I made a small investment in a Japanese television company, but that move was met with horror by the establishment and it was clear that we were not welcome," Murdoch said, in apparent reference to News Corp's previous investment in TV Asahi.
That investment ended with News Corp giving up its stake, while in return securing the cooperation of a major Japanese media conglomerate for its digital satellite TV project with Sony Corp at that time.
"Earlier this week, I was urged by some of the most senior members of that very same establishment to try again, and assured that the welcome would be much warmer this time," Murdoch said.
He added that China needed to make similar moves in opening its tightly controlled media sector, where his company, along with peers like Time Warner and Disney, were limited to a tiny sliver of the market.
"China will ultimately decide its own fate, but unless the digital door is opened opportunities will be lost and potential will not be realised," he said in a speech delivered in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing before some of China's and the world's media elite.
He also reiterated recent calls that global media, many now mired in a sea of red ink, must start to charge for their content to remain viable, and that governments must clamp down on piracy.
"A medium once thought too powerful has often seemed impotent in the past few years," he said. "Of course there should be a price paid for quality content and yet large media organisations have been submissive in the face of the flat-earthers who insisted that all content should be free all the time."
Beijing marks the third stop on an Asia tour by Murdoch, whose media empire includes the Fox TV network and the Wall Street Journal. He came to Beijing from South Korea, and was in Japan before that.
During his previous stops, speculation bubbled that Murdoch was in the region to discuss possible tie-ups with electronics makers in the fast-growing electronic reader space. His trip has included visits to Toshiba Corp, Fujitsu Ltd and Sony in Japan, and South Korean electronics giants Samsung and LG Electronics.