Rupert Murdoch still loves the cable TV business -- especially when it comes to those affiliate fees that Fox cable networks are getting from Comcast Communications and others.
It seems that Murdoch now wants this distribution model adopted for the new kid in town: Facebook. It's the one in which cable, satellite and telco video distributors pay for the Fox News Channel.
Murdoch’s News Corp. owns The Wall Street Journal and other print newspaper businesses.
For a long time, Facebook has said it is not a news organization, just a platform -- perhaps just a social-media platform. Or maybe a distributor of stuff that users want to read and share with others. But to be frank, the value can be dubious.
Murdoch, via a statement concerning Facebook, noted: “I have yet to see a proposal that truly recognizes the investment in and the social value of professional journalism.”
Now Facebook is considering a more active role in and around this information -- especially around fake news or advertising that may look like news to some. It wants its users to decide whether certain news content has higher "quality" than other content. It also looks to employ “human monitors” of ad content.
In this regard, Murdoch probably wishes that Facebook would just go back to its old ways. After all, it doesn’t employ journalists. It has no history of separating “church” and “state” -- news operations from advertising operations. That's a practice that some newspapers and TV news companies routinely employ.
The question is whether Murdoch wants to coexist on Facebook's platform with bad actors that pretend to deliver real news. Clearly, Russian manipulation of media isn’t over.
When it comes to cable, satellite or telco distributors, critics may point to plenty of iffy TV news program/networks carried on these platforms. Are they also getting duped by quasi- or brazenly f-news content?
When it comes to political advertising, TV commercials backed by super PACs may be. Still, viewers readily watch such TV commercials.
Murdoch would like to believe that cable operators and Facebook are identical. But mainstream advertisers may not think so -- especially with continued concerns about brand safety.
Here’s a recent blog from Samidh Chakrabarti, product manager of civic engagement at Facebook, concerning social media and democracy: “I wish I could guarantee that the positives are destined to outweigh the negatives. But I can’t. That’s why we have a moral duty to understand how these technologies are being used and what can be done to make communities like Facebook as representative, civil and trustworthy as possible.”
Will we see Facebook pay for news content? Maybe Murdoch should just sit on the sidelines.