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News Corp. Chair Rupert Murdoch "made an aggressive and personal response" to the regulatory challenge posed to his Fox Television network, saying that Fox had fully informed the FCC of all details of its ownership structure in '85. The NAACP has challenged Fox, saying that Fox did not "make clear" to the FCC that the amount of foreign ownership in the network would "greatly exceed" the 25% limit. Speaking at a news conference in New York, Murdoch responded directly to comments by federal regulator Roy Stewart that he was not aware in '85 that News Corp. was supplying 99% of the equity for Fox. Murdoch: "He did not say we misled him or the FCC. Nor did he say we were not candid. He said he simply didn't know." Murdoch "attempted to counter any damage" that Stewart's comments might have done by citing declarations from three former FCC staffers that Fox's applications had made clear that News Corp. was supplying the equity. Murdoch accused the NAACP and NBC, which had also challenged Fox's foreign ownership until dropping its case, of "abusing the regulatory process" (Bill Carter, N.Y. TIMES, 2/28). As part of the formal response, 48 Fox affils submitted letters of support, and African-American producers of two Fox shows submitted letters "applauding the opportunities" Fox gives minority producers (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 2/28). The FCC is also studying whether NBC's decision to drop its complaint against Fox was a result of an improper "greenmail" arrangement (Paul Farhi, WASHINGTON POST, 2/28). TURNER IN THE EYE: TBS Inc., in the wake of failed merger talks with NBC, has resumed talks with CBS Inc., according to this morning's WALL STREET JOURNAL. The talks are "preliminary" according to those close to the talks, but CBS is reportedly asking about $5.3B. TBS is said to be weighing a stock-and-cash offer. Wall Street analysts believe CBS Chair Laurence Tisch is under "increased pressure" to make a deal because the network's ratings slide will soon "translate into lower revenue and profits." Others reportedly interested in CBS include former QVC Chair Barry Diller and Walt Disney Co., "long-rumored" to be a suitor (Lippman & Sharpe, WALL STREET JOURNAL, 2/28).
ET's John Tesh previewed the swimsuit edition of INSIDE SPORTS, which hits newsstands today. Tesh: "Competition is intense to get your swimsuit on a model in the INSIDE SPORTS special issue. 800 swimsuit-makers vie for a spot, but only 25 make it" ("Entertainment Tonight," 2/27)....TNT Exec Producer Mike Pearl says he will ask Lawrence Taylor for a month's extension on a decision to return to TNT's NFL "Stadium Show." Pearl is also considering Boomer Esiason and Ronnie Lott (Rudy Martzke, USA TODAY, 2/28)....Agent David Fishof denied that his client, Phil Simms, has any "wanderlust" to leave ESPN. But Simms is believed to have made an inquiry to NBC. ABC said there has been no contact (Richard Sandomir, N.Y. TIMES, 2/28)....In addition to partnering on in a new multimedia venture, Bell Atlantic, Nynex and Pacific Telesis are combining efforts for their purchase of TV set-top "boxes," spending upwards of $800M. The devices will act as in-home gateways for interactive programming (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 2/28).
HSE's marketing strategy for its name change to Prime Sports revolves around the theme "Same Game, New Name," to be rolled out next month as part of a multi-faceted campaign to introduce viewers to its new name. The campaign will run through March and April leading up to HSE's first of 114 MLB telecasts on April 4. The network has a new logo designed by PMCD Design Group of New York. With the name change and uniformity of Liberty Sports' regional networks, Liberty says viewers will see a new programming structure offering more "consistent programming blocks" (GOULD MEDIA).
The USOC, Turner Sports and Liberty Sports will jointly produce 25 hours of TV coverage from the XIIth Pan American Games in Argentina, March 11-26. The English coverage will be produced by SportSouth, Turner Broadcasting's regional sports network in the Southeast, and be distributed by Prime Sports regional networks across the country, as well as other Liberty affiliates within the U.S. The production will include one-hour daily highlights during the week, with expanded coverage on weekends. The telecasts will reach more than 25 million cable households. Prima Deportiva, the U.S.'s first national Spanish-language sports cable service, will also provide coverage (USOC).