Ruling Backs Rupert

Rupert Murdoch, it would seem, keeps getting his way. A federal court has upheld a Federal Communications Commission decision granting Murdoch the right to own both the New York Post and WNYW-TV New York.

The 3-0 decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals in the D.C. Circuit came in a case that involved the NAACP’s challenge to the FCC’s 1994 decision to waive rules barring common ownership of a newspaper and TV station in the same market.

The court agreed with the FCC’s finding that the Post was in danger of collapse without Murdoch’s backing. Judge David Sentelle wrote that the FCC’s “decision to preserve an existing source of information seems reasonable and must therefore be upheld by this court.”

Ironically, the court released its opinion at about the same time Murdoch was being grilled by FCC investigators who are now probing allegations that Murdoch’s Fox Television Stations is illegally foreign-owned.

Fox execs are downplaying the two-hour deposition. Murdoch’s testimony was “completely routine and uneventful,” said Preston Padden, head of network distribution for Fox. He declined further comment, as did lawyers representing the NAACP, the first to allege that Murdoch violated FCC rules barring foreigners from owning more than 25% of U.S. TV stations.

It was the NAACP and the Latino group Caucus for Media Diversity that appealed the FCC decision permitting Murdoch to repurchase the New York Post. They argued that the FCC acted in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner in allowing Murdoch to buy the newspaper.

Murdoch reacted to the court decision with a prepared statement saying, “If these people (the NAACP and the Caucus) ever stopped bringing pointless and baseless actions against us, we might be able to find constructive projects to work on together.”

However, the NAACP appears to be in no mood for compromise. The org filed a lengthy petition with the FCC on Jan. 27 questioning Fox’s fitness to continue operating TV stations in light of the media titan’s now-infamous book deal with Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.).

The NAACP alleges that Fox deliberately misled the FCC on details relating to the book contract, and said the agency should interview Gingrich on his recollection of discussions with Fox execs on the book deal and the FCC’s foreign ownership investigation.

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