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NBC filed petition with the FCC to declare the Fox TV network "foreign owned and in violation of federal rules." In turn, Fox vowed to fight what it called "improper" regulatory challenges. NBC's complaint is that while News Corp. Chair Rupert Murdoch -- a naturalized U.S. citizen -- has the majority of Fox's voting shares, the company is really controlled by Murdoch's Australian-based News Corp. (BOSTON HERALD, 12/1). NBC General Counsel Richard Cotton: "We've decided to file this petition to say to the FCC that it is time Fox competed under the same rules and that the same restrictions apply to all competitors. We think that's fair, we think that's the way that all competitiors and all broadcasters ought to be treated." USA TODAY's David Lieberman on NBC's legal resources: "They can push this case farther than anyone else has so far" ("Market Wrap," CNBC, 11/30). CNN's Kelly Arena reported, "Analysts don't expect any changes in the [FCC's] 60-year-old ownership rule, and say that what's really got the other networks going is that Murdoch has maneuvered FCC law to his advantage" ("Moneyline," 11/30). In Boston, Frederic Biddle calls NBC's move "the most dramatic acknowledgement yet by one of the big three broadcast networks of the threat posed" by Murdoch and Fox (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/1). OTHER MOTIVES: "If the FCC does nothing, NBC could contend that it may want to open itself to foreign investors." GE has been discussing a deal for the network with Sony Corp. (Kevin Goldman, WALL STREET JOURNAL, 12/1). "The foreign ownership law stands as one of the few remaining restrictions on communications ownership in an increasingly global communications age." FCC Commissioner James Quello: "One of our overriding principles has been that having a fourth [TV] network is in the public interest. We are trying to promote a multichannel, multifaceted world. In order to punish Fox, I think you bear a heavy burden of proof" (Jube Shriver, L.A. TIMES, 12/1). One Fox exec also noted: "It screws up our station buying" (VARIETY, 12/1).
As expected, Viacom announced its purchase of Boston independent station WSBK-TV from New World Communications for $100M. The station will serve as the Boston home to Viacom's planned fifth network, United Paramount. Noting that United Paramount's initial plans are only to carry shows on two nights - - Viacom officials don't foresee any schedule conflicts with WSBK's sports programming. The station is the broadcast home to the Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics. In fact, officials said that at the outset games would have "precedence" over the new net's own programming. However, a key decision looming for Viacom is whether to renew WSBK's pact with the Red Sox, who are scheduled to receive $15M for '95. The team is in the final year of its 5- year, $70M contract with the station (Biddle & Craig, BOSTON GLOBE, 12/1)....The Grey Cup drew a record TV audience of 3.8M on CBC, but it did not fair well in the U.S. where it was carried live on ESPN2 and repeated the next night on ESPN. Live on ESPN2, the game drew a .9 rating and a .6 on ESPN tape-delay. In both cases, the Grey Cup was competing against the NFL (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 12/1)....DirecTV President Eddy Hartenstein, whose company kicks off its $150 package for 400 regular season NBA games tonight: "We fully expect to do deals with the NHL and Major League Baseball. If the hockey lockout ended tomorrow, we have the channel capacity and technical capability ready to go" (Michael Hiestand, USA TODAY, 12/1). The NBA will also allow Liberty Satellite Sports to expand distribution of all its regional sports network NBA games in the large-dish market for both Satellite Sports Network and SportsChannel packages. ... Due to the limited availability of transponder space on C-band satellites, Liberty's KBL Sports Network will move to a KU-band satellite (Liberty Satellite Sports)....Disney Chair Michael Eisner: "The likelihood of us buying a network is way behind that of Ted Turner. ... The networks that are talked about often as being for sale are rather expensive. You'd have to be having a good day to make that kind of investment. So, I don't think they are going to sell quite as quickly as many analysts think" ("Moneyline," CNN, 11/30).