MURDOCH DIGS INTO MORE NEWS; LINKUP WITH TCI'S MALONE COULD BE PART OF THE AGENDA

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News has always been Rupert Murdoch's first love, so it's ironic that it has been the laggard in his burgeoning U.S. media empire. There's the New York Post, a failed attempt at a Fox prime-time news magazine and the recent launch of The Weekly Standard.

But now that he has firmly established Fox as an entertainment brand and catapulted Fox Sports into a dominant sports brand, Mr. Murdoch is turning his attention to news and he could have a powerful partner in that endeavor, cable TV lord John Malone.

Mr. Murdoch last week said he believes it's time for him to launch a 24-hour news channel to rival CNN, which he said has grown too liberal. All Mr. Murdoch would say specifically of his plans was that the channel should be operating within a few years. Neither he nor Mr. Malone would indicate any movement to join hands on such a project.

But informed observers said Mr. Malone would make an ideal partner for the venture. Mr. Malone, as CEO of Tele-Communications Inc., controls a sizable amount of cable channel access. More importantly, the pair recently teamed for a sports programming alliance that merged Fox Sports with TCI's Liberty Sports assets.

One potential obstacle to a Murdoch/Malone news alliance is Mr. Malone's ties to CNN. As a key Turner Broadcasting System shareholder, Mr. Malone will still possess a sizable stake of the soon-to-be merged Time Warner/Turner operations, including CNN. But Mr. Malone will emerge with virtually no management say in the newly merged Time Warner/Turner and no direct influence on CNN.

Mr. Malone is also said to be frustrated with CNN's inability to grow faster.

"It still continues to be mostly an English-language product. And in many markets, it is limited to direct satellite reach," said an executive close to Mr. Malone.

Both Messrs. Malone and Murdoch have a common dream of a global news service and a common need to collaborate in its development, he said.

"He can work with Murdoch," the executive said. "He knows that there's going to be a lot more growth in the cable business outside the U.S. Also, they both know that news means control and a tremendous amount of influence.'

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