By: Georg Szalai/The Hollywood Reporter
Big media companies and governments ultimately can’t stop or reverse their reduced agenda setting power brought about by the Internet and digital media, but must learn to live with it and embrace it as an opportunity, a panel at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland said Friday.
Big 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 and available via Webcast. “It’s so pluralistic,” Murdoch said. “We all have less power, much less … (we) the big companies.”
Not only are there many more places from which to get news and opinion thanks to the Internet, he said. He said traditional media are also “put right immediately” these days when making mistakes, citing the example of the CBS News affair surrounding allegations against president George Bush last year.
Similarly, Murdoch 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 governments should try to see it as an opportunity for them.
“We just have to let this go,” Murdoch said. “We can’t reverse it.”
Asked if his 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.”
The News Corp. CEO also once again signaled that he sees much 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 Alibaba.com, 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 can’t be fully controlled and said his company has managed to educate the Chinese government about its benefits over the years and to demonstrate to a growing number of 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 said as a father he likes that China blocks access to online pornography. But he also expressed discontent over misrepresentations of past comments of his on various Web sites.
Overall, he argued that “opening (things up) completely would be chaos.”
The annual World Economic Forum meeting runs through Sunday and this year focused on the theme “The Shifting Power Equation.”
Acording to the WEF Web site, among prominent media and technology industry attendees at the event were Sony Corp. chairman and CEO Sir Howard Stringer, Microsoft Corp. founder and chairman Bill Gates, Google Inc. 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.