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Rupert Murdoch's summer of good fortune

Rupert Murdoch is having a great summer.Three times this summer, government regulators have had to make major ...

Posted: Jul 20, 2018 9:07 AM
Updated: Jul 20, 2018 9:07 AM

Rupert Murdoch is having a great summer.

Three times this summer, government regulators have had to make major decisions regarding media ownership. Three times, the decision has gone the way that Murdoch and his company, 21st Century Fox, would have wanted.

Murdoch is known to speak regularly with President Donald Trump. And some of the biggest stars of Murdoch's network, Fox News, have arguably been the president's most important supporters over the past year and a half. There's no evidence that either of those things led to the regulators' decisions, or that the decisions coming together this way are anything but a coincidence, but Murdoch's string of good fortune has set some tongues wagging.

"Everything seems to be falling Rupert's way," said BTIG media and technology analyst Rich Greenfield, adding that Fox News also secured two interviews with Trump and an interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin this week. "Murdoch helped get the president elected. I think it would be naive to think there isn't a direct correlation."

Brian Wieser, an analyst with Pivotal Research Group, a media research firm, noted that "It could be a total complete coincidence that a number of things have played in Murdoch's favor," but said it's hard to ignore the political overtones.

"It could also just be just the collection of people in those positions (of government regulation) happen to be doing things that are what Trump wants and what Murdoch wants," Wieser said.

Those who say Murdoch's proximity to the administration has nothing to do with the recent regulatory decisions point out that many of Murdoch and Trump's most ardent opponents actually support the government's actions. Politicians like Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Richard Blumenthal wanted the government to do the things that it did. But those things also happen to help Murdoch.

A 21st Century Fox spokesperson declined to comment.

It started in June, when the Justice Department approved Disney's bid for 21st Century Fox six months after the two companies reached a deal -- a quick turnaround for these types of mergers. 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 filed to appeal a judge's approval of AT&T's purchase of Time Warner, CNN's parent company. Whether the appeal is successful or not, the filing alone helped Murdoch: It likely helped scare Comcast out of the bidding war for much of 21st Century Fox, clearing the way for Disney and its $71 billion bid to go forward.

A Comcast-Fox combo would have likely faced the same regulatory hurdles as the AT&T-Time Warner merger. This possibility was enough to kill the Comcast and 21st Century Fox deal, Wieser said.

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

Greenfield said he didn't think the appeal is the reason why Comcast dropped 21st Century Fox, but said that any chance that an appeal could lead to Turner, the AT&T subsidiary that owns CNN, being sold off is a good thing for Murdoch.

"Anything that leads to a weaker Turner, leads to a weaker CNN, because right now CNN is part of a huge, deep-pocketed company with huge distribution platforms," Greenfield said. "If Turner is on its own, it's in a much weaker long term position."

And finally this week, the Federal Communications Commission shocked the media world by putting Fox's conservative rival Sinclair and its bid for Tribune Media on life support. FCC chair Ajit Pai announced on Monday that he had "serious concerns" about the transaction. Though Pai had previously been accused of loosening station ownership rules to help Sinclair, Pai this week criticized the company for striking deals to sell stations to buyers who have close ties with Sinclair as part of an effort to stay within ownership cap rules.

Sinclair has been viewed as a possible rival to Fox News as the former builds up a huge national footprint and snaps up talent like former Trump advisor Boris Epshteyn and former CBS correspondent Sharyl Attkisson. According to Politico, Sinclair has even approached current and former Fox talent like Jeanine Pirro and Eric Bolling. Last month, BuzzFeed reported Sinclair was preparing to launch a free streaming app called STIRR, a 24/7 TV channel featuring local news and national programming.

Sinclair tried to amend its Tribune deal to appease the commission, but the FCC voted on Thursday to send the transaction to an administrative law judge, citing a need to investigate "whether Sinclair engaged in misrepresentation and/or lack of candor in its applications with the Commission." The transaction now enters a lengthy hearing process that many media investors see as a death knell for the deal.

Sinclair has denied misleading the FCC "in the strongest possible manner," a spokesperson for the company said Monday.

If the Sinclair deal with Tribune falls through, it creates "less risk to 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 right now. It's certainly been a pretty incredible year for 21st Century Fox on all fronts."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 320174

Reported Deaths: 7390
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto22294271
Hinds20755424
Harrison18450317
Rankin13923282
Jackson13733249
Madison10273225
Lee10063176
Jones8473167
Forrest7837153
Lauderdale7263242
Lowndes6523150
Lamar636288
Lafayette6314121
Washington5427138
Bolivar4841133
Panola4671110
Oktibbeha466398
Pearl River4606148
Marshall4574105
Warren4440121
Pontotoc425973
Monroe4162136
Union415877
Neshoba4065180
Lincoln4009113
Hancock387687
Leflore3516125
Tate342586
Sunflower339491
Pike3373111
Alcorn327474
Scott320374
Yazoo314571
Adams308486
Itawamba305178
Copiah299966
Coahoma299084
Simpson298689
Tippah292268
Prentiss284261
Leake272374
Marion271280
Covington267283
Wayne264842
Grenada264087
George252451
Newton249064
Tishomingo232369
Winston230282
Jasper222148
Attala215173
Chickasaw210659
Holmes190574
Stone188733
Clay187954
Tallahatchie180041
Clarke178980
Calhoun174232
Yalobusha167940
Smith164134
Walthall135447
Greene131834
Lawrence131224
Montgomery128643
Noxubee128034
Perry127538
Amite126342
Carroll122330
Webster115032
Jefferson Davis108334
Tunica108127
Claiborne103130
Benton102325
Humphreys97533
Kemper96729
Franklin85023
Quitman82316
Choctaw79118
Wilkinson69632
Jefferson66328
Sharkey50917
Issaquena1696
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 549013

Reported Deaths: 11311
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson810461571
Mobile42145831
Madison35718525
Tuscaloosa26179458
Shelby25626254
Montgomery25089614
Baldwin21901314
Lee16287176
Calhoun14724327
Morgan14639285
Etowah14183364
Marshall12454230
Houston10791287
Elmore10301214
Limestone10188157
St. Clair10161251
Cullman9958201
Lauderdale9612250
DeKalb8977190
Talladega8462184
Walker7341280
Autauga7242113
Jackson6953113
Blount6950139
Colbert6415140
Coffee5638127
Dale4930116
Russell454941
Chilton4478116
Franklin431782
Covington4279122
Tallapoosa4144155
Escambia401880
Chambers3728124
Dallas3610158
Clarke353161
Marion3245107
Pike314578
Lawrence3134100
Winston283572
Bibb268564
Geneva258481
Marengo250665
Pickens237062
Barbour234559
Hale227178
Butler224671
Fayette218962
Henry194443
Randolph187644
Cherokee187345
Monroe180641
Washington170739
Macon163051
Clay160159
Crenshaw156357
Cleburne153644
Lamar146937
Lowndes142254
Wilcox126930
Bullock124542
Conecuh113630
Coosa111629
Perry108626
Sumter105832
Greene93634
Choctaw62125
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