FOX BEGINS LOBBYING BLITZ FOR OZ STUDIO

Rupert Murdoch is clearly tired of taking a sustained hammering from some politicians, residents and non-Murdoch media over 20th Century Fox’s planned $30 million film and TV studios in Australia.

A Murdoch counter-offensive has begun. Fox Studios Australia chief exec Kim Williams has released a letter sent to residents living adjacent to the Sydney Showground site, portraying the studios as environmentally friendly and a boon to local business, employment and the Australian film industry.

Demolishing some widely aired misconceptions about the project, Williams asserts, “There will be no theme park, no video parlors or pinball arcades.” The New South Wales government last week narrowly escaped censure from the opposition parties over its refusal to release all documents on the yet-to-be signed studio deal.

Treasurer Michael Egan promised to release some documents, but not commercially confidential and legally privileged material.

The studios scheme was hatched last October by Murdoch when he met with Prime Minister Paul Keating, subject to the NSW government’s approval.

Fox hopes to finalize negotiations with the NSW government to take over the site on a long-term lease within a couple of weeks. Construction of at least seven soundstages, post-production facilities, restaurants, shops and a cinema complex is expected to be completed by 1997.

Williams’ letter contends the studios will “enhance Australia’s reputation in filmmaking and allow the Australian industry and professionals to move to a new level on the world stage.” Aiming to defuse fears that Fox would own and run the entire complex, he says discussions are under way to involve “a wide range of Australian partners and industry professionals.”

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