News Corp. has FCC majority for DirecTV deal

A majority of the FCC has conditionally voted for News Corp.’s acquisition of DirecTV, according to the news agency Reuters, which said it has three sources to support the story.

The three Republican commissioners on the five-member panel have voted to allow the $6.47 billion deal to proceed with conditions to limit the media conglomerate from withholding key programming from cable and satellite operators, Reuters said.

The two Democrats on the panel have not yet cast their votes, the sources said. As long as the Republicans do not change their votes, News Corp. would gain control of the distribution pipeline it has long sought for its wide array of programming.

An FCC spokeswoman declined to comment.

Media conglomerate News Corp., which owns the Fox broadcast network and 20th Century Fox movie studios, would acquire a 34 percent controlling stake in DirecTV’s parent, Hughes Electronics Corp.

The FCC staff had recommended approval of the deal on the condition that News Corp. be required to offer local channels on DirecTV’s satellite service in 30 more markets by the end of 2004, as well as enter into arbitration in prolonged programming disputes with cable operators.

The broadcaster would also be barred from withholding its Fox network during the dispute resolution process. There could be minor modifications of the conditions before the agency formally releases the approval, one source said.

News Corp. also needs permission from U.S. Justice Department antitrust enforcers. News Corp. hopes to close the deal by the end of the year.

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