Free vs. fettered news: The battle lines form

In Stephen King's novel The Stand, when the apocalypse arrives, the forces of good gather in Boulder while the hosts of evil flock to Las Vegas. In real life, in the midst of apocalyptic times for the media industry, the proponents of paid content are massing under the banners of Rupert Murdoch and Microsoft, (MSFT) while those who think the news ought to be free and ubiquitous can rally behind the BBC and Google (GOOG).

Murdoch, as you may have read here or here or here or here, is talking to Microsoft about a deal under which News Corp. (NWS) would withdraw its news sites' pages from Google's search listing while keeping them available through Bing, Microsoft's search engine, in return for unspecified millions. It's a mark of how fed up the newspaper industry is that other publishers are already making similar noises: Executives from MediaNews Group and A.H. Belo Corp. (AHC) now say they're also considering a Google block as a means of bolstering the pay walls they mean to implement. No word yet on whether Microsoft might dangle some cash to coax them along.