Kohl, DeWine Seek News-Hughes Conditions


The leaders of the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee are demanding regulatory conditions on the proposed merger between News Corp. and Hughes Electronics Corp., parent of No. 1 direct-broadcast satellite carrier DirecTV Inc.

Sens. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) and Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) argued in a letter Tuesday to the Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission that a News-Hughes combination has the potential of driving retail cable and satellite prices higher and of excluding new programmers from the pay TV distribution market.

"We believe this transaction should only be approved upon the adoption of certain conditions necessary to avoid the risk of injury to competition and competitors," the lawmakers said in a letter released late Tuesday.

News Corp. has agreed to pay $6.6 billion for a controlling 34% stake in Hughes -- a marriage than unites a national pay TV platform with News Corp.'s substantial film, broadcasting and cable-television programming assets.

DeWine and Kohl said the merger should not be approved unless News Corp. and DirecTV keep their program-access promises already tendered and ensure that all rivals to DirecTV gain access to all sports programming, including the World Series, which is currently airing on the Fox broadcast network.

The lawmakers said the DOJ and the FCC may find other conditions appropriate, such as ensuring that cable operators get the same contract terms for access to Fox TV stations as DirecTV.

They also recommended firm deadlines for DirecTV's expansion of local TV service and proposed barring News Corp. from acquiring majority control of Hughes for the next five years.

Some of the recommendations mirrored proposals made by Cox Communications Inc., Advance/Newhouse Communications, Cable One Inc. and Insight Communications Co. Inc. -- cable companies together serving about 10 million subscribers.