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Murdoch aims for 15m subscribers to free WSJ.com

LONDON - Rupert Murdoch has announced that once News Corp has finalised its takeover of Dow Jones, publisher of The Wall Street Journal, he aims to increase subscribers to the online edition more than tenfold by making it free.

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Murdoch, chief executive of News Corporation, told shareholders at a meeting in Australia that the media company "expected" to make WSJ.com free to users.

He said: "We are studying it and we expect to make it free, and instead of having 1m [subscribers] having at least 10-15m in every corner of the earth."

Murdoch also said that the troubles in the global credit market had not impacted on News Corp so far and it was off to a strong start in the second quarter of fiscal 2008, "tracking above guidance" for operating income.

He said News Corp's expanding online businesses such as MySpace, as well as its film division, including 20th Century Fox, and its acquisition of The Wall Street Journal, would drive future growth.

The media mogul said digital "is the great revolution we are facing", while the free-to-air television market will undergo a lot of challenges.

He said: "Old free-to-air television is seeing its audience whittled down. The essential thing is that we make it really high quality -- we can then bring the programmes back to America and sell them as DVDs.''

Last week, News Corp reported a 23% rise in operating income to $1.05bn (£499m) for the three months ending September 30, helped along by a strong performance in box-office sales on films including 'The Simpsons Movie'.

The media group anticipates closure to its $5.2bn (£2.6bn) Dow Jones takeover by December 13, when the Dow Jones shareholders are scheduled to vote on the offer. This will be the last step in making the deal official.

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