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November 6, 2009

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Murdoch coy about online fee for news

MEDIA conglomerate News Corp posted a surprise increase in quarterly profit on Wednesday, but Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch said the company might not meet its goal of charging fees for online versions of its newspapers by next summer.

Earnings at the wide-ranging company got a boost from the box-office success of "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs" as well as from strength at its cable networks such as Fox News Channel.

But advertising revenue fell during the quarter that ended September 30 at newspapers worldwide and local TV stations in the United States. Murdoch said he "wouldn't promise" to begin charging for online access to the company's newspapers, which include The New York Post and The Times of London, by next June. When asked on a conference call what the delay was, Murdoch said, "with everything."

"There is a huge amount of work going on. It is not just with our sites, but with other people," said Murdoch, 78.

The company is facing multiple challenges, including an advertising downturn and the shift of readers to the Internet, although local TV ad revenues were recovering this month and seen improving in December, Murdoch said.

Net income for the quarter increased 11 percent to US$571 million, or 22 cents per share, compared with US$515 million, or 20 cents per share, in the year-ago period. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters were expecting a drop to 18 cents per share.


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