FCC May Give Murdoch a Very Merry Christmas

By:  Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

Until now, this hasn't been the best year for media mogul Rupert Murdoch. For one, none of the Republicans who'd been on the payroll of his Fox News Channel -- not Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum or Mike Huckabee or Sarah Palin -- became this year's GOP nominee for president.

Oh sure, when Mitt Romney got the nod instead, Murdoch's TV and newspaper empire backed him big time but, on Election Night, Fox pundits like Dick Morris and Karl Rove -- the top GOP strategist and fundraiser -- had to eat crow as Barack Obama won a second term in the White House despite their predictions of a Republican landslide. (When the network called Ohio and the election for Obama, a desperate Rove tried to keep Fox statisticians from doing their job until the facts couldn't be ignored or denied. New York magazine reports that Fox News programming chief Bill Shine now "has sent out orders mandating that producers must get permission before booking Rove or Morris.")

On top of all that, just this week Murdoch's News Corp announced the shutdown of The Daily, its multi-million dollar attempt at a national iPad newspaper. And last week in London, the thousand-page report of an independent inquiry into the gross misconduct of the British press came out -- that big scandal over reporters illegally hacking into people's cell phones and committing other assorted forms of corruption, including bribery. Murdoch's gossip sheet, The News of the World, was right at the center of it, the worst offender. The fallout cost Murdoch the biggest business deal of his career -- the multi-billion buyout of satellite TV giant BSkyB -- and the report attacked his now-defunct News of the World for its "failure of management" and "general lack of respect for individual privacy and dignity."

But Murdoch's luck may be changing. Despite Fox News' moonlighting as the propaganda ministry of the Republican Party, President Obama's team may be making it possible for Sir Rupert to increase his power, perversely rewarding the man who did his best to make sure Barack Obama didn't have a second term. The Federal Communications Commission could be preparing him one big Christmas present, the kind of gift that keeps on giving -- unless we all get together and do something about it.

All indications are that Murdoch has his eye on two of the last remaining big newspapers in America -- the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, each owned by the now bankrupt Tribune Company. He could add one or both to his impressive portfolio, but even though the media mogul is splitting News Corp into two separately traded companies -- one for its print entities, the other for TV and film -- he would still come under current rules restricting media companies from owning newspapers and TV and radio stations in the same town. However, the FCC may be planning to suspend those rules, paving the way for Murdoch's takeover of either of the two papers.

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