Rupert Murdoch Wants Facebook to Pay Publishers a Fee for ‘Trusted’ News Content

Media mogul proposes something similar to how TV providers operate

With Facebook, Murdoch sees a 'lack of transparency that should concern publishers.' Getty Images
Headshot of A.J. Katz

News Corp. executive chairman and 21st Century Fox executive co-chairman Rupert Murdoch is taking on Silicon Valley.

The media mogul released a statement today noting that if Facebook is going to revamp its news feed to ensure it’s publishing the most legitimate, “trusted” news content on its platform, then it should pay publishers a carriage fee for that content.

Murdoch wants a system in which Facebook essentially operates like a cable TV provider does.

“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,” Murdoch said in a statement, issued by News Corp. “Carriage payments would have a minor impact on Facebook’s profits but a major impact on the prospects for publishers and journalists.”

News Corp.’s assets include The Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones & Co., HarperCollins and the New York Post.

But could Facebook paying a carriage fee to publish “trusted content” really happen?

“It’s wishful thinking, but I’m not sure it’s feasible,” media analyst Brad Adgate told Adweek. “What’s news to some is not news to others. Plus, I’m not sure if the government can even regulate it, and I’d imagine that Facebook and Google would fight back against a move like this.”

Adgate continued, “I think [Murdoch] might also be a bit envious of Facebook’s revenue, which projects to grow double digits in the coming years, and News Corp. understandably wants a piece of it.”

Murdoch didn’t mince words when describing Facebook and Google, stating the two global platforms have “popularized scurrilous news sources through algorithms that are profitable for these platforms but inherently unreliable.”

He noted that there have been conversations about subscription models, but he hasn’t seen anything he feels “truly recognizes the investment in and the social value of professional journalism.”

“I have no doubt that Mark Zuckerberg is a sincere person,” Murdoch continued. “But there is still a serious lack of transparency that should concern publishers and those wary of political bias at these powerful platforms.”

Murdoch’s comments came in response to Zuckerberg’s statement from Jan. 19 that starting this week, the social media site will start prioritizing news sites. “[T]o make sure the news you see, while less over all, is high quality, I’ve asked our product teams to make sure we prioritize news that is trustworthy, informative, and local,” Zuckerberg said. “And we’re starting next week with trusted sources.”

Murdoch has long been a skeptic when it comes to the overwhelming power Facebook and Google hold over the spread of news content. The global social media platform has been accused of spreading fake news to millions of Americans, particularly during the 2016 presidential election.

@ajkatztv A.J. Katz is the senior editor of Adweek's TVNewser.