British Prime Minister Criticizes Newspaper Pay Walls

Gordon Brown Expresses Doubt Over Plans -- Like Rupert Murdoch's -- for Paid Content

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LONDON ( -- British Prime Minster Gordon Brown has stood up to Rupert Murdoch in an attack on one of Mr. Murdoch's priorities: pay walls for news websites.

British Prime Minster Gordon Brown
British Prime Minster Gordon Brown Credit: AP
"People have gotten used to getting content without having to pay," Mr. Brown said in an interview with Radio Times, the TV and radio listings magazine from the BBC, according to a report in The Guardian.

"I don't think you are going to be able to put things behind pay walls in the way that people think," Mr. Brown said. "People will pay for certain things, and should pay for certain things, but I think there's a whole sort of element of communication that's got to be free. People mind paying for basic news."

The outspoken comments set Labour Party leader Mr. Brown against Mr. Murdoch, who owns two of Britain's most influential newspapers, The Times of London and The Sun, as well as major TV channels including Sky One and Sky News.

Starting in June, The Times and the Sunday Times will begin charging £1 for one day's access to their new sites or £2 for one week's access. People who subscribe to the print edition seven days a week will receive online access free. The Sun and its Sunday sister title, News of the World, will eventually follow.

A Times spokeswoman had no immediate comment on Mr. Brown's remarks. A spokeswoman at News Corp., where Mr. Murdoch is chairman-CEO, declined to comment.

In the build-up to the general election on May 6, party leaders are generally keen to keep on the right side of Mr. Murdoch, but as the media mogul has already declared his support for the Conservative Party, Mr. Brown has little to lose in speaking out against Murdoch's strategy.

The Radio Times does not have a pay wall around its site -- but neither has it made Mr. Brown's interview available for viewing there. Radio Times magazine sells a million copies a week.

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