The chief executive of BBC Worldwide, John Smith, has come out in support of Rupert Murdoch’s plan to charge for access to his newspaper websites.
Smith, who runs the commercial wing of the corporation, offered his sympathy for the parlous times the newspaper sector found itself in.
The range of content available for free on the BBC website has often been blamed by newspaper executives, including Murdoch, for creating a barrier to commercial organisations charging online.
“I feel for newspapers,” Smith told The Australian newspaper. “What has been suggested is to get behind a paywall – I totally understand why that is a good idea.
“There is still a need for high-quality journalism, you just need to make sure it is available on all the other (distribution) outlets – print might decline but those other areas are going up.”
Smith said Murdoch, chairman and chief executive of News Corporation, had realised the “importance of having quality content”.
He added: “Then colonising every bit of internet and charging people for it sounds like the right strategy, but it will be tough.”
Smith said he didn’t agree with the assessment made by Australian Broadcasting Corporation boss, Mark Scott, that established commercial media empires were crumbling.
“I don’t think you can write off any big media company, to be honest,” Smith said.
“It’s easy to say it [talk about the decline] but I just think News [Corporation] in particular have been very bold and brave and surprised people with all sorts of things over the years.
“People said satellite broadcasting in Britain wouldn’t work, and look at it now: it’s been phenomenally successful.”