FCC Sends News-Hughes Questions


The Federal Communications Commission Thursday released questions designed to seek additional merger information from News Corp. and Hughes Electronics Corp. as the agency promised when it suspended its informal 180-review clock last Friday.

News Corp. has agreed to pay $6.6 billion for a controlling 34% stake in Hughes, which owns the 11 million-subscriber DirecTV Inc. satellite-TV service.

Both politicians and competitors have raised concerns about the anti-competitive effects of the deal.

The questions released by the FCC, however, failed to cover issues raised by several cable companies concerning News Corp.'s ability and incentive to use the merger to raise retail rates for satellite and cable subscribers.

The agency’s letter referred to at least one other attachment that was not meant for public inspection.

In the public letter, the FCC asked for subscriber-acquisition information for every relevant U.S. ZIP code for the period of January 1999-December 2000.

It also asked for details regarding a Hughes promotion with The Walt Disney Co. from Jan. 1-June 30, 2000.

Lastly, the commission asked to see News Corp.'s network-affiliation agreements with 10 TV stations in various regions of the country.

The FCC stopped the merger-review clock at day 149. News Corp. and Hughes hope to close the deal by the end of the year.