FCC Wants More Data From News


The Federal Communications Commission has asked for more market data from News Corp. and Hughes Electronics Corp. in connection with the $6.6 billion merger that would give Rupert Murdoch operating control of DirecTV Inc.

The FCC sent a letter, along with a 10-page questionnaire that asked highly specific questions about how each company operates in the market today and how they expect to operate together if the merger were approved.

Their responses are due by Aug. 6.

Although the FCC is expected to approve the merger, the agency is seeking extensive information from the companies about programming contracts, retransmission-consent agreements and corporate governance.

News Corp. has claimed that a Hughes audit committee would ensure that DirecTV would not be overcharged for Fox programming. Some in the cable industry are concerned that Murdoch would overwhelm the audit committee and require DirecTV to pay rich prices for Fox programming. If that happens, the cable companies believe they would be forced to pay DirecTV's rates and would have a hard time proving that Murdoch was charging discriminatory rates to operators.

In its letter, the FCC asked several specific questions about the audit committee, including its autonomy to review "related party contracts" between Hughes and News Corp.