FCC Could Put Brakes on Murdoch's Dow Jones Deal

Commissioner Warns Regulatory Concerns Could Hold Up Acquisition

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The conventional wisdom on Rupert Murdoch's takeover of Dow Jones has so far held that there aren't any regulatory, media-ownership concerns that could derail the deal. But one member of the Federal Communications Commission came out today warning News Corp. shouldn't assume it has an automatic green light.
FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps
FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps Credit: FCC

"It's interesting to hear the 'experts' claim the transaction faces no regulatory hurdles," FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps said in a statement. "Not so fast!"

Mr. Murdoch has enormous sway in Washington, one argument goes. The Wall Street Journal is a national newspaper, others have suggested, so it won't add to his concentration of media assets in New York, where he already owns the New York Post and the local Fox affiliate.

New York's local market
"This deal means more media consolidation and fewer independent voices, and it specifically impacts the local market in New York City," Mr. Copps continued. "What's good for shareholders of huge media conglomerates isn't always what's good for the public interest or our civic dialogue. We should immediately conduct a careful factual and legal analysis of the transaction to determine how it implicates specific FCC rules and our overarching statutory obligation to protect the public interest. I hope nobody views this as a slam-dunk."

Dow Jones and Mr. Murdoch's News Corp. didn't address the possibility of any government oversight on the deal in their joint announcement today, beyond some standard boilerplate.

"The merger, which is expected to close in the fourth calendar quarter, is subject to approval by Dow Jones stockholders, execution and delivery by the parties of the editorial agreement, regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions," the companies said.

Their representatives had no immediate comment on the statement by Mr. Copps.
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