News Briefs: News Corp., Liberty Swap Stakes in Tax-Friendly Deal

Dec 11, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Sources at News Corp. and Liberty Media confirmed last Thursday that a deal between the two companies to exchange Liberty’s 19 percent share of News Corp. for control of media outlets including DirecTV has been finalized. The sources said an official announcement of terms could be made as early as next week. The tax-friendly deal, news of which was broken by The New York Times, would provide Liberty with DirecTV, three regional sports networks and $550 million in cash in return for Liberty’s entire stake in the Rupert Murdoch-led News Corp. The Times cited as its source an anonymous banker who had been briefed on terms of the deal. Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei said Wednesday that recent talks with News Corp. to obtain the company’s 39 percent stake in DirecTV would provide Liberty with “distribution muscle” for its own media outlets, which include the QVC television shopping network, the Starz Entertainment group networks and Discovery.

-Chris Pursell and Michele Greppi

Producers Guild Announces Award Nominees

The Producers Guild of America announced nominations last week for its annual PGA Awards. For the Danny Thomas Producer of the Year Award for episodic comedy, Fox’s “Arrested Development,” HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” NBC’s “The Office,” Showtime’s “Weeds” and NBC’s “My Name Is Earl” were nominated. For the Norman Felton Producer of the Year Award for episodic drama category, Fox’s “24,” ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy,” HBO’s “The Sopranos,” Fox’s “House” and ABC’s “Lost” got nods. The awards ceremony is scheduled to take place on Jan. 20 at the Century Plaza hotel in Los Angeles.

-James Hibberd

Senators Warn FCC on Media Ownership Rules

Nine senators are urging Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin to put off consideration of new media ownership rules until the agency finishes its long-delayed examination of how local ownership of media outlets affects content. In a signal that the FCC can perhaps expect greater oversight from the freshly reconstituted Congress, nine members of the Senate Commerce Committee signed the letter, which was made public last Tuesday. The committee oversees the FCC. The bipartisan letter prepared by Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., was also signed by Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., Trent Lott, R-Miss., Bill Nelson, D-Fla., Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, all members of the committee, which oversees the FCC. Former FCC Chairman Michael Powell launched the so-called localism study in 2003, but after holding four of six scheduled hearings, never completed it. Mr. Martin has promised to incorporate the localism finding in the current review of media ownership. The senators yesterday called the study “a critical component” in evaluating ownership changes and warned that not finishing it “would cause us grave concern.” An FCC spokesman said Mr. Martin is reviewing the letter and will respond to the senators.

-Ira Teinowitz

Wins for CBS, CNN, NBC at Business Emmys

CBS News, CNN and NBC News won two Emmys apiece at last Thursday’s Fourth Annual Emmy Awards for Business & Financial Reporting. Public Broadcasting `s “Frontline” took home one Emmy from the luncheon, presented at New York City’s Rainbow Room by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. CBS won awards for stories seen on “60 Minutes” and “CBS Sunday Morning.” Stories on “Anderson Cooper 360” and “CNN Presents” scored for cable news channel. NBC’s winners were seen on “NBC Nightly News” and “Dateline NBC.” A lifetime achievement award was presented to Paul Steiger, managing editor of The Wall Street Journal and VP of Dow Jones & Co. Further details are available at Emmyonline.tv.

-Michele Greppi