As part of the acquisition, News Corp., owned by Rupert Murdoch and parent of the Fox network, will get nine new TV stations.
Eight of News Corp.’s new outlets are affiliates of UPN, one of Fox’s rival broadcast networks. The new holdings include UPN’s stations in New York and Los Angeles, the nation’s two largest TV markets.
The ninth station, KMOL in San Antonio, Texas, is an NBC affiliate.
The deal means News Corp.’s reach will extend to nearly 41 percent of the national audience. Federal law prohibits companies from reaching more than 35 percent, but the FCC voted 3-2 to delay enforcing that limit until a court decides on a legal challenge to the cap.
Dissenting commission members said the decision diminishes access to the public forum, but Chairman Michael Powell reiterated the waiver was a temporary solution.
Representatives from Fox and other networks will appear in September to ask the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington to remove the audience reach limit.
The FCC said News Corp. would have to drop a Chris-Craft ABC affiliate in Salt Lake City to keep from controlling two of that city’s top four TV stations.
The commission also gave the company a two-year waiver to sort out its holdings in New York City. The Chris-Craft merger adds WWOR-TV to News Corp.’s stable of WNYW-TV and The New York Post newspaper.
News Corp. had already received a waiver for its New York holdings, since a 25-year-old FCC rule bars a company from owning both a newspaper and a TV station in the same market.
The company will have to shed some of its holdings in the city when the waiver expires, unless the FCC changes its rules before then. Commissioners say they will examine such ownership rules in the coming months.
Before the merger, News Corp. already had 23 TV stations, along with Fox’s cable networks, the Fox movie studios and HarperCollins books.
Selling Fox Family
The FCC’s decision comes just days after News Corp. reached an agreement to sell its Fox Family Worldwide property to the Walt Disney Co.
Disney will buy the cable network for $3 billion, plus the assumption of $2.3 billion worth of debts.
The network reaches nearly 81 million cable and satellite subscribers in the U.S.
Disney CEO Michael Eisner told reporters the purchase would increase the reach of Disney’s family-oriented programming.
“These assets are a perfect fit for our company,” he said. “We paid appropriately for a rare asset.”
The network will be renamed ABC Family after the Disney-owned broadcast network.