- Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch told a congressional committee yesterday that a merger of his News Corp. television-and-movie empire with the nation's leading home satellite TV service would provide competition to the cable industry and better service to satellite customers.
Murdoch has bid $6.6 billion for a controlling 33 percent interest in Hughes Electronics Corp.'s DirecTV satellite service, which beams television programming to about 12 million U.S. customers via its pizza-size dishes. DirecTV would be the long-sought final piece to the Australian-born Murdoch's global satellite empire, which has thus far been thwarted in the United States.
....Some members of the House Judiciary Committee — such as Republicans Chris Cannon (Utah), Mike Pence (Ind.) and Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (Wis.) — sided with Murdoch. Sensenbrenner said that a combined NewsCorp-DirecTV would still be only constitute a small slice of the media market.
Democrats such as Sheila Jackson Lee (Tex.), Rick Boucher (Va.) and Anthony D. Weiner (N.Y.) ranged from skeptical to outright hostile toward Murdoch and his deal. Boucher said Murdoch had done little to alleviate his concerns that the merger would create a monopoly of programming and carriage. Jackson Lee said the politically conservative Murdoch is "against everything minority and everything progressive" and asked if Murdoch's DirecTV would carry CNN, Fox News Channel's rival. Murdoch assured her it would.
The proposed merger, announced last month, will take several months to clear regulatory hurdles. Telecommunications and antitrust lawyers give this merger a better chance of going through than the EchoStar-DirecTV merger because that deal would have left only one major U.S. satellite television provider. [Washington Post]
Sometimes pitting giants against giants serves the public best.