DirecTV, News Execs Skirt Questions


New York -- News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch and DirecTV Inc. global
chairman Eddy Hartenstein offered no solid answers on the status of their merger
talks Thursday, as each addressed an audience of direct-broadcast satellite
insiders at the annual SkyFORUM here.

In a keynote speech, Murdoch hinted that he still covets DirecTV parent
Hughes Electronics Corp., but he said his Sky Global Partners worldwide
satellite operations would still be strong without a deal.

Murdoch compared Sky Global without a U.S. DBS component to the Louvre Museum
without the Mona Lisa. 'A U.S. presence is nice to have, but it's not necessary
to the overall success of the operation,' he said. 'We, like the Louvre, have
plenty of other treasures to show off.'

Hartenstein said he still expects Hughes to be involved in a 'transforming
transaction,' adding that such a deal will be announced 'sooner, rather than
later,' although he would not give a specific time frame.

'There is a transaction out there that would give all parties involved what
they want,' Hartenstein said.

Although there has been much media speculation that a Hughes deal with News
is all but dead, Hartenstein said, 'No one is ruling anyone out.' Because Hughes
is in a quiet period pending first-quarter earnings reports scheduled for
midmonth, the company is considerably constrained in the guidance it can give

When Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co. analyst Vijay Jayant asked
Hartenstein if he thought a DirecTV merger with DBS rival EchoStar
Communications Corp. could pass government review, Hartenstein replied that it
would depend on the definition of the market.

'Cable is the competitor -- I've said that all along,' Hartenstein said,
adding that EchoStar chairman Charlie Ergen has made similar remarks at past
SkyFORUM conferences.

Ergen was not in attendance Thursday.

Hartenstein was set to be honored by the T. Howard Foundation Thursday night
for his role in promoting diversity at DirecTV and within the