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FCC to clear Fox's Chris-Craft deal

Fox Television is expected to win government approval to buy Chris-Craft's 10 TV stations Friday or early next week.

The FCC decision on the $5.4 billion deal is expected to go largely Fox's way over the objections of public advocates. The agency's three Republicans are expected to take a soft line on the company's request to extend its New York City waiver to the same-market newspaper/TV cross-ownership ban. Fox parent News Corp. already owns the New York Post and WNYW-TV there and needs FCC approval to buy WWOR from Chris-Craft.

Public advocates pushed for a short waiver that would have forced the company to sell the Post or one of the stations in six months. The deadline is expected to be no shorter than one year, however.

That means the company is unlikely to ever face a divestiture in the Big Apple because the FCC during the next year is expected to remove the newspaper cross-ownership restrictions. The company also is likely to get a waiver allowing it to surpass the 35% cap on broadcast national household reach pending the outcome of a legal case against the cap and any court-ordered changes to the rule.

Public advocates also asked the FCC to order divestitures of stations in New York and L.A. on antitrust grounds, but the agency is expected to defer to the Justice Department on that issue. Justice completed its review in April and ordered only the sale Chris-Craft's KTVX-TV Salt Lake City.

Complaints that Australia-based news Corp. will cede to much control of broadcast stations to a foreign company are expected to go unheeded. - Bill McConnell