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Murdoch warm reception congress

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Murdoch gets warm reception from Congress

WASHINGTON (Hollywood Reporter) - News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch's attempt to gain control of the nation's largest satellite television company was warmly received by the GOP-controlled House Judiciary Committee on Thursday as Republican reaction to the $6.6 billion deal fell just short of fawning.

Lawmaker after lawmaker praised the media mogul's business acumen and entrepreneurial spirit during Thursday's hearing examining his deal to gain a controlling interest in DirecTV.

Committee chairman Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., R-Wis., summed up the feelings of his Republican colleagues when he thanked Murdoch for attending, saying: "When my wife doesn't get a good dose of Fox News every day she gets grumpy, so there are some of us who appreciate what you are doing."

Sensenbrenner said he planned to send a transcript of the hearing to the Justice Department so it could have the benefit of the committee's deliberations. Both the Justice Department and the FCC have to examine the deal to ensure that it does not violate antitrust laws or harm the public interest.

While Republicans praised Murdoch, most Democrats were chafing under the strict rules of examination imposed on the witnesses. Sensenbrenner told committee members he would gavel out of order any lawmaker who strayed beyond the narrow antitrust scope of the committee's jurisdiction.

Michigan Democratic Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., found Sensenbrenner's iron hand particularly galling, considering that more Democrats turned out for the hearing than Republicans.

When asked what issues he was being prevented from examining, the senior Democrat on the committee said in an interview: "The connections between (Fox News chairman and CEO) Roger Ailes and the White House. What the hell is that all about? It's like there's a direct line between the administration and Ailes. You can see it. There are plenty of political and policy implications in that."

Sensenbrenner was not entirely successful in keeping Democratic ire out of the record as Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., told Murdoch that he was "scaring the hell out of her."

Waters contends that Murdoch's increasingly dominant media empire is squeezing out other, more liberal voices.

"When they use the term fair and balanced reporting, it really means conservative and biased," she said.

Murdoch defended his network, arguing that it actually has injected a new voice into the media marketplace, first with the Fox Network and more recently with the cable Fox News Network.

"I don't concede to you what you say about Fox News," Murdoch said. "We've had Congressman (Jerrold) Nadler as a guest quite often."

Nadler, D-N.Y., popped up with a quick "thank you," though the New York Democrat earlier had questioned Murdoch about tax shelters he allegedly uses to hide the company's true tax bill.

The executive brushed aside criticism that the deal will create a vertically integrated behemoth that could dominate the American media marketplace. Murdoch defended the purchase, saying it will bring in more local channels and more diverse programming and create additional competition to industry. He also reiterated the program-access protections he has agreed to undertake.

"Innovation and consumer choice are built into our DNA," he said, pointing out that when he started Fox there was only the Big Three, that Fox News has "dethroned" the dominant cable news channel and that his sports networks have brought renewed competition to a once "entrenched" industry.

Murdoch's defense won kudos from the GOP as Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, said: "Thank you for what you've done. Thank you for your risk-taking."

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

Copyright Reuters Ltd. All rights reserved. The information contained In this news report may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of Reuters Ltd.

05/09/2003 01:01

Copyright All rights reserved. The information contained In this news report may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of

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