FCC wants info on News Corp. merger

Agency wants independently audited statements

NEW YORK — The Federal Communications Commission wants additional information from News Corp. regarding the financial status of the New York Post as it examines the company’s proposed acquisition of Chris-Craft, according to a letter posted on the agency’s Web site Friday.

The FCC asked News Corp. back in December for more detail on the Post; the company’s response was insufficient. The agency said in its latest letter that it wants independently audited certified financial statements or some similarly authoritative documents.

“Additional information is necessary if we are to evaluate properly (Fox Television’s) claims regarding the financial condition of the newspaper,” it said.

Broadcaster Chris-Craft agreed to merge with News Corp. last year in a deal that would give Fox Television a second Gotham TV station in addition to owning the Post — despite the fact that current FCC regulations forbid cross-ownership of a broadcast station and a newspaper in the same market.

News Corp. skirted that regulation in 1993 when it got a permanent waiver by convincing the commission that the Post’s shaky finances meant it might fold entirely if News Corp. gave it up. That would have reduced the diversity of voices in the market. The FCC’s mandate is to promote diversity.

News Corp. and Fox still say the Post’s economic viability remains in question and contend the original waiver is sufficient to let the company keep the Post and add another TV station. Alternatively, Fox argues that it should be granted an interim waiver to own all three assets pending the outcome of review of the cross-ownership rule.

Many in Washington and in the media industry expect that will be one of the first regs to fall by the wayside under the newly reconstituted FCC.

The FCC told Fox that it has 15 days to respond and that it has meanwhile stopped the clock on the review process of the Chris-Craft deal.

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