News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch found himself in a new role last week: Involuntary star of an activist-group-sponsored advertising campaign warning about the alleged perils of deregulation for media ownership.
A TV ad for the campaign shows a consumer flipping through TV channels and finding the scowling face of the News Corp. chief on every one.
The voice-over says that Mr. Murdoch already owns broadcast and cable TV networks, and a host of TV stations. But Republicans at the Federal Communications Commission are planning to clear the way for him to acquire more, the ad continues, by loosening agency media ownership restrictions on June 2, “giving him control over much of the news you hear.”
Said a News Corp. spokesman of the ad: “Inaccurate and irresponsible.”
Adding salt to the wound, the campaign’s sponsors sold the ads to Time Warner Cable in New York and Cox Cable Communications in Washington, with the explicit request that they be aired on the cable system’s local avails on Mr. Murdoch’s Fox News Channel.
The campaign’s newspaper ads, which appeared last week in The Washington Post and The New York Times, said the FCC wanted to help Mr. Murdoch “control the news in America.”
“Unless we act now, Rupert Murdoch is going to get his way,” the ads say.
According to the ads, the deregulation the FCC has in mind will mean higher cable bills, canned programming and reduced coverage of community issues for the public. “Public outrage is perhaps our only chance to stop or reverse these changes,” the ad continues.
Eli Pariser, campaigns director for MoveOn-one of the activist groups behind the initiative-said Mr. Murdoch had been drafted as the campaign’s star because he’s a “poster child” for the ill effects that deregulation could have, at least for MoveOn’s 1.4 million members.
“Among our membership, people are not pleased with the way he approaches news and journalism,” Mr. Pariser said. Mr. Pariser also said the campaign was aimed at federal policymakers and lawmakers, with $40,000 for TV buys and $120,000 for newspapers.
In another potential headache for Mr. Murdoch, the watchdog Center for Media Education announced an effort last week to use its Web site, www .democraticmedia.org, to recruit opposition for News Corp.’s proposed acquisition of DirecTV at the FCC.