News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch is sending a clear message to Washington
regulators: Block the merger between EchoStar Communications Corp. and Hughes
Electronics Corp., parent of DirecTV Inc.
Murdoch, who failed in his own bid to acquire Hughes, is apparently going
all-out inside the Beltway to ensure that archrival Charlie Ergen, EchoStar's
chairman and CEO, is denied his dream of becoming king of the direct-broadcast
In recent weeks, News Corp.'s Washington lobbyists have circulated a binder
thick with analyses, reports, congressional letters, court filings and news
articles intended to reinforce Murdoch's point that the EchoStar-Hughes deal is
illegal under antitrust law no matter which standard is used.
Evidently, if Ergen is blocked from completing the deal, Murdoch would be in
position to revive his effort to buy Hughes, although that scenario is not among
the points raised in News Corp.'s attack on the pending merger.
EchoStar spokesman Marc Lumpkin criticized News Corp. for spreading
'inaccuracies' about the merger in the documents and for failing to testify on
Capitol Hill in December. On the Hill, News Corp. would have faced rebuttal from
Ergen and DirecTV chairman and CEO Eddy Hartenstein.
Both the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice need
to approve the $25.8 billion merger. The first round of comments is due to the
FCC Feb. 4.