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Rupert Murdoch's Summer of Happiness



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Rupert Murdoch is having a great summer.

Three times this summer, government regulators have had to make important decisions about owning media. Three times the decision went as Murdoch and his company 21st Century Fox wanted it.

Murdoch is known to speak regularly with President Donald Trump. And some of the biggest stars of Murdoch's network, Fox News, were probably the main supporters of the president over the past year and a half. There is no evidence that any of these things led to the decisions of the regulators, or that the decisions that come together in this way are anything but a coincidence, but Murdoch's streak of fortune has upset some tongues.

"Everything seems to fall Rupert's way," BTIG media and technology analyst Rich Greenfield said, adding that Fox News has also secured two interviews with Trump and an interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin this week. "Murdoch has helped to elect the president, and I think it would be naive to think that there is no direct correlation."

Brian Wieser, an analyst with the Pivotal Research Group, a media research firm, noted that "it could be a complete coincidence that a number of things have pleased Murdoch," but said it was hard to get the political overtones to ignore.

"It could just be the accumulation of people in these positions (of state regulation) who do things that Trump wants and what Murdoch wants," Wieser said.

Those who say Murdoch's closeness to the administration have nothing to do with the recent regulatory decisions indicate that many of Murdoch's and Trump's most fervent opponents actually support government action. Politicians like Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Richard Blumenthal wanted the government to do the things it did. But these things also help Murdoch.

A 21

st Century Fox spokesman declined to comment.

It began in June when the Department of Justice approved Disney's offer to 21st Century Fox six months after the two companies agreed – a quick turnaround for this type of merger. A year after AT & T announced its bid for Time Warner, the government filed a lawsuit to block the takeover.

Then, last week, the government submitted a petition from AT & T for a judge's refusal to buy Time Warner, CNN's parent company. Whether the appeal is successful or not, Murdoch was helped by the submission alone: ​​it probably helped frighten Comcast out of the bidding war for much of 21st Century Fox and cleared the way for Disney and its $ 71 billion bid close.

A Comcast-Fox combination would probably have taken the same regulatory hurdles as the AT & T and Time Warner merger. This possibility was sufficient to end the Comcast and 21st Century Fox agreement, said Wieser.

"Murdoch wants to sell to Disney," said Wieser.

Greenfield said he does not believe the appeal is the reason why Comcast dropped 21st Century Fox, but said that any chance that a call could lead to Turner, the AT & T's daughter, the CNN owns, Murdoch is sold.

"Anything that leads to a weaker gymnast leads to a weaker CNN because CNN is currently part of a large, deep-set enterprise with huge distribution platforms," ​​said Greenfield. "When Turner is alone, it's in a much weaker long-term position."

And this week, the Federal Communications Commission shocked the media world by making Fox & # 39; conservative rival Sinclair and his Tribune Media livelihood. FCC chairman Ajit Pai announced on Monday that he had "serious concerns" about the transaction. Although Pai had previously been accused of easing the station owner's rules to help Pain, Pai criticized this week that the company has entered into contracts with traders who are closely associated with Sinclair to comply with the rules on ownership restrictions.

Sinclair was seen as a potential competitor to Fox News as the former builds a huge national footprint and grabs talents like former Trump Adviser Boris Epshteyn and former CBS correspondent Sharyl Attkisson. According to Politico, Sinclair has even addressed current and former Fox talents like Jeanine Pirro and Eric Bolling. Last month, BuzzFeed said Sinclair was getting ready to launch a free streaming app called STIRR, a 24/7 TV channel of local news and national programs.

Sinclair attempted to amend its tribune agreement to reassure the commission, but the FCC voted Thursday to send the transaction to a judge of administrative law, citing the need to investigate "whether Sinclair misrepresented and / or lack of openness in his applications to the Commission. "The transaction is now entering a protracted hearing that many media investors consider a death knell for the deal.

Sinclair denies misleading the FCC "in the best possible way," a company spokesman said Monday.

If Sinclair's deal with Tribune fails, it will create "less risk for Fox News from a new competitor and the potential to buy some of the better stations," Greenfield said. "It's great to be a Fox shareholder now, it was definitely a pretty incredible year for 21st Century Fox on all fronts."

CNNMoney (New York) First published July 19, 2018: 7:44 pm ET


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