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Rupert Murdoch targets BBC with Times Radio launch

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Rupert Murdoch (File photo)

Rupert Murdoch appears to have his sights on the BBC with the launch of a new radio station in competition with struggling Radio 4.

News UK, the UK arm of News Corp., the media empire owned by Rupert Murdoch, is to release details this week of Times Radio, which will be funded by marketing budget of the Times newspaper titles.

Rupert Murdoch is probably best known as the owner of News of the World which was at the heart of the News International phone-hacking scandal where employees of the newspaper were accused of engaging in phone hacking, police bribery, and exercising improper influence in the pursuit of stories.

Murdoch and his son, James, were summoned to give evidence at the Leveson Inquiry. Over the course of his testimony, Rupert Murdoch admitted that a cover-up had taken place within the News of the World to hide the scope of the phone hacking. 

On May 1, 2012, a parliamentary select committee report concluded that Murdoch "exhibited willful blindness to what was going on in his companies and publications" and stated that he was "not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company". 

On July 3, 2013, Channel 4 News broadcast a secret tape in which Murdoch dismissively claims that investigators were "totally incompetent" and acted over "next to nothing" and excuses his papers' actions as "part of the culture of Fleet Street".

Despite the view that Times Radio was to be a "rebrand" of the loss making Talk Radio, which has run at heavy losses for several years, the new Radio shall not be supplanting any existing Murdoch radio stations.

Times Radio shall encourage the journalists on the Times newspapers to take on presenting roles. The station will feature "opinion-led" programs specifically designed for Radio 4 audiences.

Times Radio will target the "wealthy metropolitan audience" and will not include advertising as it is aimed at attracting “young, aspirational” subscribers to the Times newspaper, which had a total of 539,000 subscribers across digital and print as of August 2019.

Set to launch in spring, the new station shall be a major competitor to BBC Radio 4, which, according to the latest industry statistics, has already lost 300,000 listeners in the year from October 2018 to October 2019. This fall in numbers has been attributed to the popularity of podcasts as well as competition from commercial stations.

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