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BUILDING A BETTER FOX AFTER NEW WORLD DEAL, MURDOCH LOOKS TO PROGRAMMING AND ASIA

Published on .

With his surprise investment in New World Entertainment, News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch again shocked the broadcast world, gaining up to 12 major new Fox affiliates, primarily at CBS' expense. Mr. Murdoch discussed this and other issues last week with Diane Mermigas, financial editor for Electronic Media, a sister publication of Advertising Age.

Electronic Media: How do you intend to build on your recent extraordinary moves?

Rupert Well, I guess the first thing we do is to get a better Fox schedule on the air. Programs, programs, programs is the answer.

EM: There has been heightened speculation you will work out a similar deal with Cox Enterprises or Group W and their stations.

Mr. Murdoch: We're not talking to them at the moment. We're always talking to Cox about day-to-day business because they are our biggest affiliate. We're not talking to any major groups at the moment.

EM: How important is it that you move quickly to capitalize on your momentum?

Mr. Murdoch: Not important ... There is a danger out there now, there's such a fever and everyone has their hands out for money. We aren't going to be paying any steep prices for anything.

EM: Do you think the Federal Communications Commission's review of your announced alliance with New World or of the foreign ownership of your parent company News Corp. will eventually pose an obstacle to you?

Mr. Murdoch: The situation is exactly the same that the FCC approved of seven years ago. We haven't changed our position in any way at all.

I think CBS is around trying to stir up anything and everything they can. But in fact, nothing has changed in our regulatory or ownership position at all. If the FCC wants to change the rules retrospectively, then, we'll have to face that when it happens.

EM: What about the domino effect of last week's developments on the broadcasting industry in general? Are you anticipating a major restructuring of network ownership interests and of network-affiliate relations?

Mr. Murdoch: There is a lot of wild talk about that at the moment. There are affiliates who have been told how they have to tighten their belts, and expect less compensation and so on. This has given everybody a little smell of blood, perhaps. But I think it will settle down pretty quickly.

EM: You don't think it will lead to an extraordinary, pricey battle for stations?

Mr. Murdoch: Not unless the networks panic.

EM: How do you hope to leverage off all of this with advertisers in the coming upfront market?

Mr. Murdoch: I think this has given us a great deal of added credibility.

EM: You've got a number of pieces coming together now: fX [a new cable network in 18 million homes], the NFL, the new affiliates, and overseas the British BSkyB satellite service and the Star TV satellite service in Asia. Are you considering starting your own national or international news or sports operations?

Mr. Murdoch: Yes, but I think that's still some time away. We've got to immediately do a better job in news at our stations and help those New World stations as they will help us.

EM: What will you focus on next?

Mr. Murdoch: Asia and Star TV. We're doing a lot there now, but it's all still coming on stream. There is a lot of work to do there. I think you'll see us getting into more local productions.

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