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Analyzing Murdoch’s Methods

Dec 22, 2003  •  Post A Comment

According to Washington insiders, News Corp.’s acquisition of DirecTV has been a slam-dunk from the start-at least for Republicans-because it didn’t present clear antitrust concerns and offered the possibility of beefing up the competitive threat that satellite TV presents to cable.
Competition is the angle that News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch hammered away at in a personal lobbying blitz that included visits with all five of the FCC’s commissioners as well as agency staffers. “Mr. Murdoch discussed how the proposed transaction will bring News Corp.’s energy to [DirecTV owner] Hughes and thereby create real competition to incumbent cable companies,” said a recent disclosure report on a series of FCC meetings starring the News Corp. chief.
On still another front, Mr. Murdoch made it clear from the get-go that he was willing to negotiate conditions to defuse opposition. In fact, he proposed conditions aimed at ensuring that Fox’s cable programming would continue to be made available on fair terms to the cable industry and expediting DirecTV’s rollout of the retransmission of the local signals of broadcasters.
Among the other key conditions-adopted in response to lobbying from the cable TV industry-is one aimed at preventing News Corp. from unfairly denying cable operators the right to retransmit the signals of Fox’s TV stations and its regional sports networks, by permitting cable operators to seek nonbinding arbitration in retransmission consent disputes. Under the condition, the arbitration decisions could be appealed to the FCC “He knew he had to make some concessions or this thing would have never flown,” said one industry source.
Some sources said it helped that Republicans are calling the shots in Congress and at the White House, where Mr. Murdoch’s Fox News Channel and Weekly Standard are keenly appreciated.