Tuesday, October 13, 2009

News Corp. buying NBC? Don't count on it

A little rumor floated by mainstream news organizations yesterday certainly scared the crap out of quite a few people. Yes, something even scarier than Orly Taitz without a wig.

In the latest curveball thrown in the NBC Universal sale negotiations, a couple new potential suitors were floated about. Namely Liberty Media, which seems to want to buy a stake in everything, and News Corp. Yes, that News Corp. The owners of the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal and the FOX properties. Including FOX 'News'.

So, what's the deal? Is Rupert Murdoch looking to acquire a competing movie studio? A rival broadcast network? A business news channel that people actually watch? Would he add more tits n' ass to "Law And Order"? Or, are they looking to squash once and for all MSNBC, that bastion of liberal subversion that competes with their right-wing propaganda organ that is FAUX 'News'? Or, are they just making a little noise, and using this opportunity to peek inside a rival?

Right-wingers are salivating over this one. Syndicated radio talker Mark Levin dreams of MSNBC becoming a branch of FAUX News

So, where does the "Australian Mafia" fit into the equation? Well, the deal is far from done, and News Corp. and Liberty Media have surfaced as possible bidders for NBC. Granted, neither company has approached GE.

And the thought of News Corp. buying a media conglomerate like NBC is beyond laughable.

First and foremost, I wouldn't bet on News Corp. being a serious suitor. As it stands now, it appears that Comcast looks to have the upper hand, though there is still quite a bit of wrangling to do before General Electric sells 51% of their 80% stake (Vivendi owns the other 20%). As part of a potential deal, GE could eventually sell their remaining stake to Comcast over the next three years.

So, let's say Murdoch were to buy NBC, he'd have to run through a major government gauntlet. Let's start with the Federal Trade Commission. It is headed by four commissioners, all appointed by President Obama. And we all know what the Obama White House thinks of FOX, right? So, getting through the Obama FTC with a deal to buy a major television network, film studio, station owner and media conglomerate is most certain to raise eyebrows. If you thought getting that Dow Jones purchase through the Bush FTC was a pain in the ass, hoo boy! You ain't seen nothing yet! And that was during the Bush Administration, which was always happy to do favors for them. FAUX hasn't done itself any favors with the current administration. Yesterday, one of their hosts, Glenn Beck, compared their treatment by the White House to Jews during the Holocaust!

But let's suppose they get through that roadblock. Next, it's on to the Federal Communications Commission. It consists of five commissioners, three of them Democrats. And Chairman Julius Genachowski is  a firm backer of media diversity. Among the agency's current goals is the encouragement of competition, rather than consolidation. Considering that a purchase of one network by another would entail haggling over buying not only two broadcast network (NBC and Telemundo), but broadcast properties (i.e. affiliate stations). The likelihood of News Corp. owning four stations in the country's biggest media markets is not going to fly past Obama's FCC (the current maximum is two). Four network affiliates and two newspapers in New York? Yeah, right! Unlike the Clinton White House, Obama isn't stupid enough to cave on deregulation. He obviously knows how that backfired on Clinton.

So, let's say they get past the FTC and the FCC. Well, News Corp. would have to unload stations, as they did last year when they spun off a number of their network affiliates. But in the markets where they still own stations, they own two. One station airs FOX programming (like "24" and "American Idol") and the other is affiliated with their MyNetworkTV, which for this season 'downgraded' itself from 'network' status and started carrying rerun leftovers from other networks (and wrestling!). So, a FOX/NBC combo would have to unload stations in many cities, in what is a buyers' market for broadcast properties. They could ditch a poorly-rated MyNetworkTV outlet and lose their shirts, but in some cases, they'd also have to unload a Telemundo affiliate owned in the same market by NBC. Two low-rated stations in a market at the same time? Yeah, good luck with that. And that's if they could get it approved. And even still, News Corp. would only be part-owner of NBC. Is it really worth it?

Then, News Corp. would have come up with money. And after shooting their load on Dow Jones last year for the Wall Street Journal, and a very soft market for media advertising, they'd have to come up with part of the $30 billion or so it would take to buy NBC Universal. Not likely. But on the bright side, it could bankrupt Murdoch once and for all, and live will be better for all.

So, Keith Olbermann can relax. He probably won't have to work for Murdoch again. The new host of "Meet The Press" will not be Glenn Beck. "Law And Order" won't be resorting to bare tushy shots. And Rachel Maddow won't be forced to wash Sean Hannity's car. The News Corp. Death Star won't be swallowing this planet.

Essentially, Murdoch, often one to make a lot of noise while seemingly standing in the shadows, is just trying to scare the crap out of people.


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