RUPERT Murdoch probably saved the UK's newspaper industry when he secretly moved his operations from Fleet Street to a new technology centre at Wapping in 1986 but there must be serious doubts about whether his latest rescue act, announced yesterday, to protect his newspapers from the free competition of the internet will have the same result. There is certainly a problem; newspapers in the United States are already in serious financial trouble as circulation and advertising decline and most blame the fact that their content can be seen on the internet without charge.

Mr Murdoch's intends to anticipate this problem with his British newspapers by charging for access to their internet editions and intends to introduce such charges within the next year. Some newspapers have experimented with this innovation in the past - the New York Times for instance - but have quickly abandoned it as unworkable.

Mr Murdoch will have done his homework before deciding on this fundamental change. But one comment he made yesterday suggested that he may not have thought it through sufficiently. Commenting on the Daily Telegraph's recent scoops on MPs' expenses he said that people “will always be happy to pay for scoops of that kind.” Perhaps - but how many exclusive scoops of that calibre can any one newspaper expect to unearth in a year? In most cases scoops quickly become common property and generally subside quite quickly. Nonetheless any move by Rupert Murdoch must be taken very seriously.


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