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
"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