Fairfax paywall plan commendable: Turnbull

Opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull says Fairfax Media’s plan to erect a paywall for its news websites will be very challenging for the embattled company.

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Fairfax Media announced on Monday it would cut 1900 jobs, close two printing plants and introduce online subscriptions.

Mr Turnbull says there will always be a lot of journalism but the challenge for media companies in an online world is to find a business model to pay for it.

He says the move by Fairfax chief executive Greg Hywood to introduce paywalls for its websites from early 2013 is “very commendable”.

“You can make the case that Fairfax should have done more sooner but you can’t live your life backwards, whether as a company or as a person, and so they’ve got to get on with it,” Mr Turnbull told Sky News on Monday.

“But it is a very, very challenging transition and you know the question is as he tries to do this corporate surgery, will the patient survive?”

Mr Turnbull said Fairfax’s metropolitan mastheads – The Age in Melbourne and The Sydney Morning Herald – along with weekday editions of News Limited’s The Australian were likely to become published only online.

He said hopefully for democracy, media companies could make the transition from paper to digital where they offer “sufficiently authoritative digital, online newspapers”.

“We must not short-sell the importance of news gathering, independent news gathering, news gathering with credibility and integrity that people believe is objective,” he said.

Mr Turnbull said the federal government should not subsidise a print newspaper, a view he shares with Communications Minister Stephen Conroy.

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