FCC reviews Wall Street Journal buy

Rupert Murdoch's offer under scrutiny

A top federal regulator has called for a Federal Communications Commission review of Rupert Murdoch’s planned purchase of the Wall Street Journal.

Citing concerns about this “unprecedented” deal, Michael Copps, one of two Democratic commissioners at the FCC, sent a letter to commission chairman Kevin J. Martin on Thursday formally asking that the agency “open a proceeding to examine the implications of this proposed acquisition on the national media market.”

“If approved, this transaction would leave News Corp. in control of a Big Four broadcast network and two of the nation’s five largest newspapers (as well as a vast collection of cable channels, satellite networks, motion picture studios and publishing outlets),” Copps said. “For residents of the local New York metropolitan area, it will also mean that a single company operates two of the area’s most popular television stations and two of its most popular newspapers.”

Because of existing rules limiting cross-ownership, the FCC reviews proposed acquisitions of media entities by other media entities in one city. But the FCC exempts from review deals involving newspapers that are deemed national, such as the WSJ.

Copps called that exemption “antiquated” and said it was “no foundation on which to build a media policy for the 21st century.”

Describing News Corp. as “one of the most influential media companies in the world,” Copps listed the contents of its current portfolio: “In addition to owning Fox Broadcasting, it holds 35 full power TV licenses in the United States, including WNYW and WWOR in the New York metropolitan area. It already owns newspapers all across the world, including the New York Post with a total paid circulation of 724,748. According to the Post’s own website, this figure makes it the fifth-largest newspaper in the country and includes almost 500,000 … exclusive readers you can’t reach through any other New York paper.”

The WSJ and its parent company Dow Jones “play a tremendously important role in both the national and New York media markets,” Copps said.

Invoking the FCC’s mandate to uphold public interest obligations, Copps said the prospect that too much media power will reside in too few hands “requires us to consider the implications of a merger between these two media giants.”