TW, News Corp. court-shy

Conflicts lead firms to attempt to settle Fox News suit

NEW YORK — Insiders said that lawyers for Time Warner and News Corp. are negotiating behind the scenes to settle out of court an antitrust suit filed last year by Rupert Murdoch after Time Warner Cable of New York City refused to sign a deal to carry Murdoch’s Fox News Channel.

Time Warner wants to bring an end to Murdoch’s suit in federal court in New York City, sources said, at least in part to keep a lid on embarrassing revelations of its violations of the editorial integrity of American Lawyer magazine and Court TV, both of which TW owns an interest in. This month’s Vanity Fair has an article about Steve Brill, former CEO of Court TV and American Lawyer, which uncovers memos by Brill detailing three examples of attempted interference by TW executives hell bent on suppressing coverage that might damage the corporation financially.

News Corp. has its own reasons for settling, according to the sources. It lost the first two rounds, in federal district court and in the second circuit court of appeals, when it enlisted Mayor Rudy Giuliani to try to force TW’s Gotham systems to carry Fox News Channel on one of the city-owned PEG channels. (PEG is an acronym for public, educational and governmental.) Both courts upheld TW’s request for an injunction, which has kept FNC off the local cable systems on First Amendment grounds.

Murdoch’s antitrust suit now is in the discovery stage, with a tentative court date sometime in January if the parties can’t reach an agreement beforehand.

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