News Corp. is dismissing claims by the National Association of Broadcasters that the company could use control of DirecTV Inc. to harm independent Fox affiliates.
In a recent filing, News Corp. told the Federal Communications Commission that contracts with the National Football League and other sports organizations effectively bar the media giant from using DirecTV as a satellite "bypass" around local affiliates the company does not own.
News Corp. needs FCC approval to take operating control of DirecTV, the No. 1 direct-broadcast satellite carrier, with more than 10 million subscribers.
In the Aug. 28 filing, News Corp. said its contracts with the NFL, Major League Baseball and the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing cover "only over-the-air broadcast rights."
Thus, using DirecTV to provide that programming — in lieu of retransmitting the local Fox station in a market — would violate those sports deals, as well as a federal law that puts restrictions on the delivery of network programming via satellite, the company said.
The News Corp. filing was a response to the NAB's earlier claim that the company headed by media mogul Rupert Murdoch could distribute a Fox network national feed on DirecTV to "bypass" independent affiliates, which often have disputes with the network.
In its FCC comments in June, the NAB said the FCC should take the "bypass" threat so seriously that it should deny the merger unless News Corp. agreed not to provide Fox via DirecTV in any market served by a non-News Corp.-owned Fox affiliate.
NAB and News Corp. have been at odds for years. Because NAB supported FCC caps on the number stations a network like Fox could own, News Corp. resigned its NAB membership several years ago.