Michael Miller addresses News Corp redundancies: ‘Looking to rightsize through the advertising downturn’

Michael Miller news corp

Plus: AI, whether News Corp coverage ‘bullies’, and the ABC: “I do feel that we’re not obsessed [with the ABC] – we look at Media Watch every Monday.”

News Corp’s executive chairman Michael Miller has told the National Press Club that News Corp’s ongoing restructure is to ensure the business “rightsize[s] through the advertising downturn to be in a position for growth.”

“I’ve never talked about numbers, and the speculation of the numbers out there is incorrect. In terms of journalists, we will always try to minimise the loss of frontline journalists who are on the ground,” he said in a Q&A following his fierce address calling for policymakers to crack down on the global tech giants.

“Unfortunately, we are going through a lot of change as an industry. We’re looking to rightsize through the advertising downturn to be in a position for growth coming out. I’m not going to talk to numbers and never have, I don’t plan to either.”

‘Important partners’: How News Corp will use AI

News Corp and OpenAI recently announced a major deal allowing the AI platform to display content from News Corp mastheads. Asked about why News Corp has shifted from warning about AI to doing a major AI deal, Miller said:

“Generative AI has not been in the vernacular for long. What has changed over the past year, is that a lot of those AI companies have learned from the tech platforms to engage with media earlier – I think all media companies are seeing that, they want to have conversations about how they see media as being important partners. 

“Media companies should be open to having those conversations. There is no doubt that AI companies need media companies, and if the partnership is right, then I don’t think media companies should be closed-minded to working with AI companies either.”

Miller was adamant AI won’t replace journalists’ jobs. It will help with fact checking, he said.

“Newsrooms don’t just have great archives and great currency, but also an understanding of language. So far, that’s what their models have yet to fully develop. 

“It’s a tool. We’re not going to see journalists replaced by AI, but it allows us to do a better job fact-checking, and speed to publish with greater accuracy. Journalists do a better job by using the technology available to us, and AI is just one of those technologies.”

Amidst Meta pulling out of deals to pay for news – Miller is at the front line of news business’ lobbying for the government to force Meta back to the bargaining table – the tech business’ AI function purports to summarise paywalled news articles.

“Taking paywall data onto their platforms concerns me greatly,” Miller said.

“They should be paying a licence, and they should be paying a fee. That was what the News Media Bargaining Code was intended for – if they want to use the content and profit from the work of others, they should pay the people who create it.”

‘Unavoidable trading partner’: Taking on tech companies 

If Meta does refuse to bargain, and pulls news off its platform like it did in Canada, Miller isn’t overly worried. The decision is likely to disproportionately impact smaller publishers.

“I don’t believe the Australian Government is holding back. If we go back to the News Media Bargaining Code, which had the support of the Greens, Labor, and Liberals, it was seen to be an important step in the right direction,” he said.

“There are other countries around the world where they have turned off social media. It happened in India. What we saw in India was that local innovators met that void, and for Indian businesses and consumers, it was actually made for their market with language changes and other local nuances. It was far better for the country, but it was locally grown and locally purposed. That’s what would happen here, no doubt.”

However, he said the social platforms are an “unavoidable trading partner.” Asked whether News Corp would consider pulling its masthead accounts off the platforms, Miller replied: “The ACCC found that [social media sites] were an unavoidable trading partner. In meetings I’ve had with politicians, they understand the damage that the platforms are causing, but they themselves can’t exit those platforms, because that’s where their voters and their local communities are. They’re unavoidable, and that’s why they do operate here, because they are so pervasive.”

‘Wasn’t intended to bully’: News Corp’s wider coverage

Miller was asked whether News Corp reporting has caused people like Yassmin Abdel-Magied, Antoinette Lattouf, Brittany Higgins, and trans youth to be bullied. He was clear that wasn’t the intention.

“That work wasn’t intended to bully. They raised issues. I’d also point you to the substantial body of work in campaigns our mastheads have run to stop bullying. 

“There’s the Let Them Be Kids campaign to raise the age [of social media participation]. The Can We Talk campaign run by The Sunday Telegraph, which asked for a counsellor in every single school – the New South Wales Government did make that change. I’d actually stand by a lot of our journalism and the positive impact that has.”

He was also asked about Andrew Bolt‘s claims that The Voice referendum wanted an Aboriginal-only parliament.

“They are commentators, and we’re not taking them out of their opinion context. We’ve got to understand the difference between news reporting and opinion and commentary. Andrew is definitely a commentator, and his views are part of the News Corp group, but not the only view.”

‘We’re not obsessed’: News Corp’s relationship with the ABC

News Corp is often accused of being “obsessed” with the ABC. Recently, backlash against Laura Tingle‘s comments at the Sydney Writer’s Festival led to Tingle being counselled, and issuing a statement contextualising and defending what she said. In that statement, she said it was an example of another “anti-ABC pile on.”

“On any single day of the week, there’s a small group of the ABC that will review and critique News Corp and other media, at News Corp is a small cluster that will review and critique the ABC and other media,” Miller said.

“I do feel that we’re not obsessed – we look at Media Watch every Monday. 

“I don’t think organisations are as obsessed as what may get amplified within the industry.”

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