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Rupe’s on track for DirecTV OK

FCC likely on track to complete review by year's end

Rupert Murdoch may yet get his coveted satellite company for Christmas.

The Federal Communications Commission is ready to restart the clock on its regulatory review of News Corp.’s pending takeover of DirecTV parent Hughes Electronics, evidently sufficiently satisfied with information received by both companies in response to certain competitive elements of the transaction.

An agency exec told an investment conference in Washington, D.C., that the FCC should be on track to complete its 180-day review by the end of the year, having stopped the clock on Oct. 10 to solicit more details on issues such as promotional offers and TV network affiliate deals. The agency indicated it is prepared to restart the countdown in “a matter of days or a week.”

News Corp. is looking to acquire a 34% controlling stake in Hughes in a $6.6 billion deal that would fill a large gaping distribution hole in Murdoch’s global portfolio.

Little criticism

There’s been sparse public criticism of the deal despite current legislative pressures against excessive media consolidation and control. And certainly News Corp.’s content power through its cable and broadcast networks had some regulators nervous. But the company has insisted all along that engaging in any unfair practice such as withholding its content to rival distributors would in fact be economic suicide.

Critics such as Jeff Chester, head of the Center for Digital Democracy, have asked the FCC to explore complaints that Fox has pressured affils to turn over their digital spectrum to the network.

Among the information the agency sought was detail on discounts offered to customers in collaboration with Disney.

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