Murdoch Avoids Local HDTV Issue


News Corp. has promised the federal government to beam local TV signals into
all 210 markets as soon as financially and technically possible, but Rupert
Murdoch's company has not pledged to use DirecTV Inc. to retransmit local
stations in their original high-definition format when that day arrives.

On Friday, News Corp. filed an application with the Federal Communications
Commission to take control of DirecTV parent Hughes Electronics Corp. in a $6.6
billion deal that would put Murdoch in control of a major distribution rival to
the cable industry to accompany his substantial broadcasting and programming

Carriage of off-air digital-TV stations in HDTV is a looming crisis for
direct-broadcast satellite, which is not expected to have the capacity cable
does for bandwidth-intensive HDTV.

The FCC is urging TV stations and cable operators to pump out HDTV
programming, but the agency has yet to decide whether it will force DBS carriers
to pass through HDTV or permit them to downconvert the signals to accommodate
their capacity needs.

In the filing, News Corp. borrowed an HDTV idea from EchoStar Communications
Corp., claiming that "it is exploring the potential of incorporating
digital-terrestrial-television tuners into DirecTV set-top boxes."

News Corp.'s local HDTV plan in part wouldn't be to retransmit those signals,
but to capture them the old-fashioned way: with off-air antennas.

"By mounting a small antenna for receiving broadcast signals at the same
point where the satellite dish is located, most subscribers would be able to
receive digital-television broadcast signals from their local stations over the
air," News Corp. said.