Guardian appointment prompts paywall speculation

Posted on June 4, 2013

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  • The Independent
  • By GIDEON SPANIER

The departing chief executive of Virgin Media, Neil Berkett, has been named chairman of Guardian Media Group, sending a powerful signal that its loss-making flagship newspaper could soon charge for its website.

During his six-year tenure at Virgin, New Zealand-born Mr Berkett focused on persuading customers to buy more services such as broadband, pay-TV, home phone and mobile. Dame Liz Forgan, the chairman of the Scott Trust, owner of GMG, highlighted Mr Berkett’s digital expertise and skills in reshaping businesses.

The Guardian is under pressure to charge for online news after losing £44m last year. The paper’s website and Android app are free, but it has experimented with charging for its iPhone and iPad apps.

A source close to GMG said there are no plans to charge for its website, and it was too soon to know about Mr Berkett’s strategy as he takes over in September.

Mr Berkett, a GMG non-executive director since 2009, replaces Dame Amelia Fawcett, a former Morgan Stanley banker, who is retiring.

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