The Los Angeles Times asked Rupert Murdoch about his desire to acquire that newspaper and got Mr. Murdoch's response: "It won't get through with the Democratic administration in place."
The newspaper explains further:
Murdoch was alluding to federal regulations that seek to limit media consolidation. A Federal Communications Commission rule adopted in 1975 bars the same company from owning newspapers and television stations in the same market. News Corp. owns two television stations in Los Angeles: KTTV-TV Channel 11 and KCOP-TV Channel 13. Adding the L.A. Times to the portfolio would put Murdoch in violation of the cross-ownership rules....
Jack Goodman, a communications lawyer and former attorney with the National Assn. of Broadcasters, said Monday that separating the newspapers from the TV stations will not get Murdoch out of the cross hairs of FCC cross-ownership rules. Murdoch and his family are expected to retain their voting control in both the Fox Group and News Corp.
Under the FCC's current rules, because Murdoch would be a common officer of both corporations, the assets of one would be considered owned by the other.
Murdoch could apply for a waiver to those rules. Tribune currently holds such a waiver because the company also owns KTLA-TV Channel 5 and The Times. Murdoch holds one because News Corp. owns the New York Post and two TV stations in the New York metropolitan region.
Murdoch received the FCC waiver for the New York Post in 1993, after a hard-fought, months-long battle with the FCC. The waiver -- to help rescue the tabloid from bankruptcy court -- came five years after Murdoch was forced to sell the Post to comply with the cross-ownership rules.
Is it too much to think that whether someone can buy a newspaper in this country should depend on whether he can convince the current owners to sell it to him at an agreed-upon price, not on whether the administration in power in Washington is Democratic or Republican? If these sorts of cross-ownership rules were ever justified, which they probably were not, they are certainly obsolete now in the days of cable and satellite television and the Internet, which lower the barriers to entry into the local news business.