FCC Commissioner Urges Probe Into Murdoch's Dow Takeover

29 October 2007

WASHINGTON, DC: News Corporation's $5.6 billion (€3.82bn; £2.68bn) takeover of Wall Street Journal parent Dow Jones should be subject to the antitrust scrutiny of the Federal Communications Commission, urges one of the latter's five commissioners.

Michael Copps, a Democrat appointee, (pictured left) has written to FCC chairman Kevin Martin (right), describing the proposed deal as "unprecedented", in that ownership of the WSJ would confer on NewsCorp - which already owns the New York Post and the national Fox TV Network - control of two of the nation's five major newspapers.

It would also mean that a single company dominates the Manhattan media scene, as well as the heavily populated surrounding area, with two of the most popular TV stations (NewsCorp also owns the Fox Television Stations group which operates WNYW-5 New York) plus two of its best-selling newspapers.

Copps argues that the FCC has a duty to conduct a detailed scrutiny of the planned takeover, although some legal experts contend that it has no jurisdiction over the newspaper industry, having traditionally steered clear of non-broadcast media.

"It ain't necessarily so," maintains Copps who posits in his letter to Martin that lack of precedent should not preclude the FCC from conducting a "thorough analysis" of the proposed acquisition.

The FCC chair, traditionally appointed by the reigning White House incumbent, is occupied by a seasoned apparatchik who will be uncomfortably conscious of the political ramifications of granting Commissioner Copps' request.

With a right of centre Republican president and a Democrat-controlled Congress, Martin will be damned if he does and damned if he doesn't.

To say nothing of falling foul of America's second most powerful political entity - Rupert Murdoch - a mere fourteen months before a new incumbent enters the White House.

Little wonder that Martin's office declined to comment on Commissioner Copps' letter.

Data sourced from Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff