Murdoch Not Optimistic About Tribune, Dow Jones Deals

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By: David S. Hirschman

Speaking at the 2007 Media Summit in New York today, News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch said that he doesn’t think his bid, with the Chandler family, is likely to succeed in winning the auction for the Tribune company, and that his rumored interest in acquiring Dow Jones is “cooling.”

Murdoch, whose company, of course, has a wide range of international holdings in newspapers, acknowledged that the business was “vulnerable,” and said that newspaper companies needed to look at themselves more as information providers in the future.

“We’ve just got to be neutral about what platform we sell them on and view them on,” he said.

On political expression in newspapers, Murdoch said he did think they were an appropriate forum, calling it “a matter of freedom of speech in editorials.” He said the New York Times was “outrageously biased,” and defended the New York Post’s news pages. He admitted that he often disagrees with things that appear on the Post’s editorial pages, but that for the most part his views were “broadly in alignment” with the newspaper’s.

He said that changes in the newspaper advertising marketplace (in particular, the loss of multi-page advertisments from major retailers) continue to make things more and more difficult, but that the the answer was not to make newsroom cuts. Rather, he praised newspapers’ decisions to drop stock tables, and said that there were other such economies to be found.

In talking about his interest in Dow Jones, Murdoch said the didn’t think that the company would soon be available, and that — even if that were a possibility — it would be hard to sell to his shareholders on the acquisition.

Nonethless, he said he believes that the Dow’s Wall Street Journal has a “wonderful brand” that had the possibility of competing nationally with the New York Times. He said the paper’s recent shrink in size made it “more readable,” but he indicated that he didn’t agree with the changes that the paper has made in putting breaking news largely on the Web while filling the print edition with longer, more analytical pieces.

Taking the Journal’s hard news onto the Web “has taken some of the urgency out of [the print paper,]” he said, describing how now he often finds articles in the Journal that he thinks will be interesting and saves for later but then never gets around to reading.

Speaking of his bid with the Chandlers (which would transfer Newsday to News Corp), he said that, while unlikely, the move would make the New York Post — which has operated in the red for years — a viable business “in five minutes” because of the possible synergies between the two papers.

Murdoch also discussed the launch of a Fox “business” channel later this year, which he described as more “friendly” to business than CNBC.

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