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Apr 9, 2003  •  Post A Comment

News Corp. Wins Control of DirecTV After Long Struggle

News Corp., the parent company of Fox Broadcasting and Twentieth Century Fox, has sealed a $6.6 billion deal to acquire control of Hughes Electronics and its subsidiary, DirecTV, the largest satellite-delivered programming service in the North America with an estimated 11.3 million paid subscribers.

The deal appears to finally fulfill the long-held desire of News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch to have a significant wireless programming service in the United States. Mr. Murdoch made his first attempt to enter the field in the mid-’80s in a short-lived venture, and has been seeking another way in ever since. News Corp. already owns or controls satellite programming services in Europe, India, China, Australia and South America.

Under the terms of the deal announced Wednesday General Motors will sell its 19.9 percent of Hughes Electronics to News Corp. for $14 per share, or $3.8 billion. GM would receive about $3.1 billion in cash and the remainder in News Corp. preferred American depository receipts (stock).

News Corp. will also acquire an additional 14.1 percent stake in Hughes from holders of GM Class H common stock through a mandatory exchange. They will receive News Corp. stock valued at $14 per share, which is a 22 percent over the price of the shares earlier today, according to an official announcement from GM.

Assuming that a number of conditions are met and the deal is given regulatory approval, Mr. Murdoch will become chairman of Hughes, and Chase Carey, a former Fox executive now a consultant to News Corp., would be named president and CEO of Hughes. Hughes would have 11 directors, with the majority being independent.

The News Corp. acquisition comes after a long process that included an earlier bid by DirecTV’s competitor EchoStar to acquire the satellite service. That bid failed when it did not get the necessary regulatory approval. In recent weeks, other entities have looked at the same assets, including Baby Bell SBC, but in the end dropped out of the bidding, leaving News Corp. to make the acquisition for what many analysts said is a bargain price.

Bloom Memorial Set for April 16: A memorial for NBC News correspondent David Bloom, who died Sunday in Iraq from a pulmonary embolism, has been scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday, April 16, at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York.

A network spokesperson said approximately 25,000 messages from the public have been received at a special e-mail address, BloomFamily@NBC.com.

David Bloom Children’s Trust was established by his friends for the benefit of his three young daughters. Donations in memoriam may be sent to: David Bloom Children’s Trust, c/o Latham & Watkins, 885 3rd Ave., Suite 1000, New York, NY 10022.

At the request of Mr. Bloom’s family, donations can also be made in his memory to the “Convent of the Sacred Heart” and sent to the following address: Convent of the Sacred Heart, In Memory of David Bloom, 1177 King St., Greenwich, CT 06831.

Baghdad Invasion Takes Center Stage: Commercials went out the door again today as U.S. troops took control of major areas of Baghdad.

All U.S. broadcast networks and cable news channels focused on the spectacle of Iraqi citizens’ getting the help of a Marine tank crew to topple a four-story-tall statue of Saddam Hussein in Firdos Square. But there was ample and dramatic evidence that U.S. troops were not being received with cheers and open arms throughout Baghdad.

CBS News correspondent Byron Pitts and CNN correspondent Martin Savidge were just two embedded journalists who found themselves and the units they were assigned to under fierce fire in other parts of the Iraqi capital.

“There has been a lot of fighting this afternoon,” ABC News Nightline anchor Ted Koppel said.

There were no reports of any journalists injured on the day after three journalists had been killed in U.S. military action in Baghdad-something the Committee to Protect Journalists has asked the Pentagon to investigate.

CNN’s Nic Robertson, who had been ejected from Baghdad by Iraq in the first days of the war, and Christiane Amanpour were expected to head back to Baghdad tonight or Thursday morning. NBC news correspondents Ron Allen and Jim Maceda are also expected to show up in Baghdad.

The broadcast networks presented commercial-free special reports throughout the morning-ABC News was the first to go to special report status at 8:47 a.m. (ET)-but by 2 p.m. the cable news networks had the story all to themselves for a few hours while the networks planned for their regularly scheduled newscasts (NBC Nightly News was expanding to an hour, Nightline expanding to 45 minutes) or prime-time reports (ABC scheduled a one-hour special for 10 p.m.).

“If this is not the end, it is certainly the beginning of the end,” Mr. Koppel said.

‘Malcolm’ Will Return to Fox: Fox renewed Malcolm in the Middle for another year. Malcolm consistently wins its 9 p.m. Sunday time period among adults 18 to 49 and season-to-date averages 10.8 million viewers.

“Malcolm in the Middle is the benchmark by which all family comedies are judged,” said Fox Entertainment President Gail Berman. “The series continues to grow creatively, just as Lois and Hal’s family is growing with a baby on the way. We look forward to seeing what Linwood and company have in store for them, and us, next season.”

Malcolm was created and is executive produced by Linwood Boomer for Regency Television.

Fox Picks Up Two New Dramas: Fox gave early series pickup orders to two new dramas, Wonder Falls and The O.C. The network ordered 13 episodes of each. The series could hit the air as early as summer. Fox previously said it is moving to a year-round programming model in which it will introduce at least two new dramas this summer. The network has already scheduled drama Keen Eddie to debut June 3.

Wonder Falls, from 20th Century Fox and Regency Television, is executive produced by Todd Holland and Bryan Fuller. It’s about a woman played by Caroline Dhavernas who realizes she can communicate with inanimate objects through quirky visions. The O.C., from Warner Bros.

TV and Wonderland Productions, is created and executive produced by McG and Josh Schwartz. The drama revolves around a teenager in Orange County, Calif.