News Corp., Viacom in swap talks

News Corp. and Viacom are discussing several possible TV station swaps to take advantage of relaxed FCC rules permitting TV station "duopolies," The Wall Street Journal reports.

The Journal cites people "close to the situation" who say the talks are in early stages. News Corp.'s acquisition of Chris Craft's 10 major market stations sparked speculation that News Corp. would look to trade some of them to create dual-station markets for itself. News Corp. and Viacom each own station properties the other company covets.

Eight of the Chris Craft stations affiliates of Viacom's UPN network, and Viacom would certainly like to own as many of those stations as possible. In San Francisco, News Corp. owns a UPN affiliate, but not a Fox affiliate, and may be willing to trade that station to Viacom for a property in other markets where there is a Fox station.

Observers see the prospect of a major News Corp.-Viacom trade triggering a sequence of similar station trades between other TV station groups.