BILLIONAIRE MEDIA MOGULS FINALIZE SWAP
John Malone's Liberty Media and Rupert Murdoch's News Corp confirmed Friday that they had agreed on a swap in which, essentially, Murdoch would turn over News Corp's controlling stake in DirecTV to Malone, and Malone would turn over his 16-percent stake in News Corp to Murdoch. The deal also calls for News Corp to hand over three regional cable sports networks and $550 million in cash to Liberty. The deal ends a long dispute between Murdoch and Malone during which Murdoch imposed a "poison pill" defense against Malone to prevent him from gaining control of News Corp.
PUBLISHER REGAN SAYS SHE HAS A WITNESS
The attorney for former publisher Judith Regan, who is suing News Corp for wrongful termination after denying a company lawyer's claim that she made anti-Semitic statements to him, says that a former temporary aide to Regan who overheard the conversation will testify in her behalf. Attorney Bert Fields said that the employee, Carmen del Toro, is prepared to testify that Regan "is telling the absolute truth, that she did not make the anti-Semitic remark attributed to her." Regan was alleged to have told company lawyer Mark Jackson that she was the victim of a "Jewish cabal" that scrapped her book deal with O.J. Simpson, then killed a Fox-TV interview with Simpson about the book. (Regan conducted the interview with Simpson herself.) News Corp later released a statement saying, "We stand by Mark Jackson's memory and his detailed notes" of the conversation with Regan.
COMPLAINTS POURING IN OVER NEW HDTV SETS
Many of the 19.5 million (or possibly more) consumers who bought digital TV sets over the holidays are bringing them home only to discover that the pictures on them don't look any better than those on their previous, conventional TV sets and, in many cases, look worse, a Consumer Electronics Assn. spokesman said Sunday. In an interview with Daily Variety, Matt Swanson, director of business analysis for the organization, said that most people are unaware that they need a special antenna or that they are required to subscribe to an HDTV service from their cable or satellite provider in order to receive HD pictures. "A high-def display is dependent on external sources. And that's where consumer understanding drops off." Many, he said, simply plug in their sets, turn them on, then think to themselves, "Huh? The screen looked so much better in the store."
WARDROBE MALFUNCTION GOES TO COURT
The FCC on Friday defended its decision to impose a hefty, $550,000 fine on CBS for the Janet Jackson breast-baring incident during the halftime show at the 2004 Super Bowl. In a brief filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia, the commission rejected CBS's claim that it was unaware that the incident would take place, had chastised the participants, and had apologized to viewers. The FCC pointed out that on the website of the show's producers, MTV -- then a corporate sibling of CBS -- promos had been promising that something shocking would occur during Jackson's performance. The FCC observed that Jackson -- and, Justin Timberlake, her partner in the performance -- were essentially CBS employees and that the network was therefore liable for their conduct.