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).