Murdoch: Big Media’s Clout on Wane

NEW YORK Big media companies and governments ultimately cannot stop or reverse their reduced agenda-setting power brought about by the Internet and digital media, but must learn to embrace change as an opportunity, a panel at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, said Friday.

Media conglomerates have less influence amid the continued explosion of news sites, blogs and podcasts, News Corp. chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch said in the session moderated by Charlie Rose. “It’s so pluralistic,” Murdoch said. “We all have less power, much less.”

Not only are there more outlets for news and opinion thanks to the Internet, but traditional media are also “put right immediately” these days when making mistakes, he said, citing last year’s CBS News affair surrounding allegations against President George Bush.

Similarly, News Corp.’s leader said “government now has to be much more open” because of the Web and suggested, along with Gordon Brown, chancellor of the exchequer and the possible future prime minister of the U.K., that nations should try to view the situation as an opportunity.

“We just have to let this go,” Murdoch said. “We can’t reverse it.”

Asked if News Corp. managed to shape the agenda on the war in Iraq, Murdoch said: “No, I don’t think so. We tried.” Asked by Rose for further comment, he said: “We basically supported the Bush policy in the Middle East…but we have been very critical of his execution.”

Murdoch also once again signaled that he sees more change ahead thanks to digital media. “We’re in the very early stages of it,” he said.

During the same panel, Jack Ma Yun, founder and CEO of Chinese Web and electronic commerce giant, suggested that outsiders often overstate China’s controls and regulations of the Internet. While many complain about government censorship, “to me it’s not that serious,” he said.

He suggested the Web cannot be fully controlled and said his company has managed to educate the Chinese government about its benefits and to demonstrate to the country’s people how it helps them. “You create value and show the government it works,” he said.

Nonetheless, the Alibaba CEO argued that the Internet “needs to be controlled or managed” in China due to its traditions and size. For example, he appreciates that China blocks access to online pornography. But he also expressed discontent over misrepresentations of past comments of his on various Web sites.

The annual World Economic Forum meeting runs through Sunday and this year focuses on the theme “The Shifting Power Equation.”

Among the prominent media and technology industry attendees at the event are Sony chairman and CEO Howard Stringer, Microsoft founder and chairman Bill Gates, Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page along with CEO Eric Schmidt, as well as BSkyB CEO James Murdoch. Political figures appearing in sessions included Germany’s federal chancellor Angela Merkel, Israel’s vice prime minister Shimon Peres, Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, King Abdullah II of Jordan and Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.