Copps Wants FCC to Thoroughly Review Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal Purchase

Oct 25, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Federal Communications Commission member Michael J. Copps is suggesting the agency take a close look at Rupert Murdoch’s plan to buy the Wall Street Journal and not give it perfunctory approval.
In a letter to FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin, Mr. Copps today called the $5.6 billion deal “unprecedented in the history of the FCC” and suggested there must be a chance for a thorough examination of its implications.
The FCC’s cross-ownership rule currently bars owners of a TV station in a market from buying the local newspaper. News Corp. owns the New York Post and WNYW-TV in New York and operates the station under a waiver from the rule.
The FCC has not been expected to take a close look at News Corp.’s Wall Street Journal purchase because the newspaper is perceived as national rather than local. Government antitrust review of the deal is expected to go through the Justice Department or the Federal Trade Commission.
Mr. Copps suggested the size of the deal, both in readership and reach, as well as some of the issues raised, warrant a closer look.
“If approved, this transaction would leave News Corp. in control of a Big Four broadcast network and two of the nation’s five largest newspapers, as well as a vast collection of cable channels, satellite networks, motion picture studios and publishing outlets,” he said.
“For residents of the local New York metropolitan area, it will also mean that a single company operates two of the area’s most popular television stations and two of its most popular newspapers,” he said.
“The proposed transaction would appear directly to affect the New York metropolitan market in terms of localism, diversity and competition. We need to study these effects before the transaction proceeds.
“I believe the FCC’s obligation to consider the public interest—which the agency has traditionally defined as localism, diversity and competition—requires us to consider the implications of a merger between these two media giants,” Mr. Copps continued.
“Indeed, the FCC has never had occasion to receive comment or do research on the important public interest issues raised by (1) a national network owner owning one or more newspapers that are read across the nation or (2) a company already operating under waivers of the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership ban acquiring a second newspaper published in that locality,” he said. “These are important issues that surely deserve serious consideration by the commission and the American public.”


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