Three weeks after Rupert Murdoch met with the Bancrofts to allay the family’s concerns about a News Corp. acquisition of Dow Jones, the sides appear to be farther apart than ever.
Murdoch and News Corp. management are reportedly perturbed by a list of conditions handed over by the Dow Jones board last week that would cede a large amount of control to an independent panel and give the conglom only a minority say on that panel.
Dow Jones directors, apparently acting at the behest of the Bancrofts, have recommended the creation of the so-called Special Committee on Editorial and Journalistic Independence and Integrity. Among other things, the group would control the hiring and firing of key positions, including the publisher and managing editor of the Wall Street Journal.
The group would also oversee newsroom budgets and the deployment of the WSJ brand.
News Corp. would be allowed to appoint only two of the seven members of that group, with two others coming from the Bancrofts and the remaining three chosen independently, recommended by the Bancrofts and approved by News Corp.
Move is meant to reassure members of the Bancroft family as well as journalism activists and the Dow Jones union that Murdoch would not make significant changes to the editorial mix and mission of the WSJ if he were allowed to buy Dow Jones. Murdoch has made a bid of $5 billion for the financial-news outfit.
Top News Corp. execs were said to be vexed by the conditions, which would be unusual by the standards of most newspapers, including News Corp. subsids such as the Times of London.
Murdoch reportedly told the Bancrofts at a meeting earlier this month that he could not accept so strict a level of oversight.
News comes less than a week after the Bancrofts allowed the Dow Jones board to begin negotiating directly with News Corp. — a move that many thought signaled that the Bancrofts’ editorial concerns had been placated.
It also comes several days after another bidder, GE-Pearson, acknowledged that it was taking itself out of the bidding for the news service. That leaves no known bidders to compete with News Corp., making it more likely that the family will sell to News Corp. or simply retain control of the company.