Known for his dogged, if quixotic, battles against what he considers excessive media consolidation, FCC member Michael Copps has formally requested that FCC chair Kevin Martin hold an inquiry into News Corp.’s (NYSE: NWS) $5.6 billion acquisition of WSJ and DJ, B&C reported. If the purchase is allowed to continue, Copps, one of two Democratic Party appointees to the five-member commission, would give News Corp. control of the ownership of two of the nation’s largest newspapers along with two TV stations in New York.
While FCC rules prohibit ownership of a local daily newspaper and TV stations in the same market, waivers have been routinely granted for the past two decades. Such waivers allowed News Corp. to own both the New York Post and its New York TV stations in the early 1980s. This past month, the Tribune Los Angeles waivers were renewed, allowing the planned sale of the company to Chicago real estate investor Sam Zell to continue without interruption. The rule does not apply to national dailies like the Journal.
As we’ve noted, Copps’ pleas have generally fallen on deaf ears at the commission, as FCC Chair Martin has tended to take a hands off approach to media combinations and has recently sought to loosen the rules on cross-media ownership.