Deal No 'Slam-Dunk', FCC Honcho Warns
NEW YORK: A charitable foundation run by Nicholas Negroponte, a member of the committee set up to safeguard the editorial integrity of The Wall Street Journal, has been receiving money from News Corporation, it was revealed Friday.
It also emerged that the Dow Jones board was unaware of this fact when agreeing the composition of the committee.
In a damage limitation exercise, DJ spokeswoman Linda Dunbar made light of the revelation: "We are confident of the capability of the individuals to make independent decisions," she oiled.
NewsCorp was in similar dismissive mode. Assured a press relations hack loftily: "Members of the committee were never meant to be people unknown to Dow Jones and NewsCorp." A textbook non sequitur that dodged the ethics of the issue.
Continued the spokesman: "They are well-known and highly respected people with exceptional knowledge of the media industry, and they enjoy the confidence of both Dow Jones and News Corporation. That's all that matters."
The cash in question - thought to be around $2.5 million (€1.81m; £1.22m) - was contributed by NewsCorp to One Laptop per Child, a foundation that makes low-cost laptop computers available to poor children.
It is founded and run by former MIT professor Negroponte (pictured above). He accompanied Rupert Murdoch to the World Economic Forum in Davos in January and is one of the five members of the WSJ 'integrity' committee.
Further cementing the relationship between the charity and NewsCorp is the latter's evp Jeremy Philips who also sits on the foundation's board.
Other trustees of the WSJ's editorial integrity panel are Louis D Boccardi, retired ceo of Associated Press; Jennifer Dunn, a retired member of the US House of Representatives; another retiree, Jack Fuller, a former president of Tribune's publishing group; and ex-WSJ reporter Thomas Bray, currently a columnist with the Detroit News.
One of the two Democrat-appointed members of the five-strong Federal Communications Commission, Michael Copps, has warned NewsCorp that regulatory approval of the deal should not be taken for granted.
Said Copps: "It's interesting to hear the 'experts' claim the transaction faces no regulatory hurdles.
"Not so fast! This deal means more media consolidation and fewer independent voices, and it specifically impacts the local market in New York City."
Copps cites NewsCorp's ownership of a Fox TV station in New York - which alongside the WSJ - could breach the FCC's cross-ownership rules. These prohibit common ownership of a broadcast station and a daily newspaper in the same local market.
But some onlookers argue that the WSJ is a national, not local, newspaper - and oriented toward financial rather than general interest news. This, they say, would exempt it from the prohibition.
Nonetheless, warns Copps: "I hope nobody views [the FCC's approval] as a slam-dunk."
Data sourced from multiple origins; additional content by WARC staff