DISH Objects to News Corp. Conditions Push

DISH Network asked the Federal Communications Commission to reject a petition from News Corp. that seeks to release the media giant from conditions placed on its acquisition of DIRECTV in 2003.

As part of its takeover of the DIRECTV stake five years ago, News Corp. was required to allow pay-TV competitor access to its key programming properties, such as broadcast stations and regional sports networks. Given that News Corp. sold its stake in the satellite TV company to Liberty Media earlier this year, Rupert Murdoch's company has asked to be released from those provisions.

In comments filed with the FCC late last week, DISH said the conditions have "proven to be sound regulatory policy which should be extended and expanded, not truncated."

Also, DISH said the conditions continue to address News Corp.'s market power, "and should remain in full force for the six-year term."

In addition, DISH had praise for the arbitration process contained in the conditions for resolving program access complaints, calling it a "market-based solution that has worked well and has served the public interest."

And in its comments DISH suggested that there hasn't been a "clean break" between News Corp., Liberty Media and DIRECTV with respect to regional sports networks.

Liberty Media gained control of Fox Sports Northwest, Pittsburgh and Rocky Mountain along with its acquisition of a controlling stake in DIRECTV. DISH said all three regional sports networks remain affiliated with News Corp's Fox Sports programming efforts.

"These continuing ties - which effectively maintain the status quo of a vertically integrated conglomerate - highlight the extent to which the two companies' operations are still entwined, and their collective interests remain aligned," stated DISH's filing. "News Corp. has not established that it no longer has a continued business relationship with Liberty Media with respect to the management, operation, and carriage of RSNs."