Rupert Murdoch's big push into the U.S. direct-broadcast satellite sector is
slated for a Senate scrubbing as part of a pay-TV-ownership hearing staged May 6
by Senate Commerce Committee chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.).
A McCain spokeswoman confirmed the hearing date and indicated that the
session would examine Murdoch's proposed acquisition of DirecTV Inc. parent
Hughes Electronics Corp. for $6.6 billion in a merger that would position News
Corp. as a chief distribution rival to cable while also serving as one of
cable's key content providers.
A Senate source said Murdoch was invited to testify but his office had not
responded to the invitation. The source indicated that it was unlikely that
Murdoch would enter an appearance due to a scheduling conflict.
The hearing is officially titled, "Media Ownership in the MVPD
[multichannel-video-programming-distribution] Market," said the McCain
spokeswoman, who did not have a full witness list available Wednesday
Other sources said the McCain hearing would explore cable-ownership
consolidation, network tiering and programming rates, with a panel of witnesses
that is expected to include Cox Communications Inc. CEO James Robbins,
Cablevision System Corp. chairman Charles F. Dolan, CableDirect president and
CEO Jim Gleason and the Consumers Union's Gene Kimmelman.
Yankees Entertainment & Sports Network spokesman Bob Davis confirmed that
CEO Leo J. Hindery Jr. -- once a familiar face on Capitol Hill from his
cable-operator days -- has agreed to testify, most likely on YES' arduous,
extra-inning campaign to secure distribution from Cablevision.
EchoStar Communications Corp. chairman and CEO Charlie Ergen -- who is
expected to raise a number of concerns about the News Corp.-Hughes combination
-- is unable to testify because EchoStar is holding its annual shareholders'
meeting in Denver the same day as the hearing.
Ergen visited Washington, D.C., Wednesday, but sources would not disclose
whether he met with McCain, other lawmakers, or regulators.
Sources said the House Judiciary Committee is planning a May 8 hearing on the
News Corp.-Hughes deal. Murdoch is expected to testify, as are Kimmelman and
small cable operator Neil Schnog, president of Uvision LLC in