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FCC review to delay News-DirecTV pact

Merger on hold as agency analyzes antitrust issues

WASHINGTON — Rupert Murdoch will have to wait a little longer.

The Federal Communications Commission has delayed News Corp’s $6.6 billion plan to purchase control of DirecTV, a unit of Hughes Electronics. The merger was expected to sail through the FCC, and sources initially believed that it would get the OK in September.

But the FCC decided Friday to stop the 180-day clock it uses as a general guideline for considering mergers in order to gather more information and assess the implications of granting Murdoch’s News Corp. 34% of Hughes and control of the satcaster.

In a letter to lawyers for the two companies, FCC media bureau chief Ken Ferree explained that the agency needs more time to consult with the Justice Dept., which is analyzing antitrust issues involved in the deal.

“We will be sending you a supplemental document request shortly,” Ferree wrote. “Once we have received an adequate response to that request and completed our discussions with the (DoJ), we will restart the clock.”

A News Corp. rep took the news in stride, with no concerns that the temporary delay will slow the approval process. “We feel very confident about this deal and the benefits it gives consumers and the competition it brings to cable,” the spokesperson said.

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