Fox Keeping Open Options to Buy Boston Television Station
BOSTON (AP) _ Media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who gave up control of Boston TV station WFXT when it conflicted with his ownership of the Boston Herald, could be in a position to reverse that move.
But a spokesman for Murdoch’s television business says no decision has been made and Murdoch is simply exploring its options.
Fox Inc., a subsidiary of Murdoch-led News Corp., has laid the groundwork to acquire a controlling share of WFXT sometime in the future. Such a step, however, would conflict with federal rules that ban cross-ownership of newspapers and television stations in the same market.
Murdoch once owned the TV station, but sold his controlling interest because of the rules.
Dennis Petroskey, a spokesman for Fox in Los Angeles, said Murdoch would not contest the rules or seek any exemption if he regained control of WFXT.
″News Corp. would have to divest itself of the Boston Herald,″ he said.
Petroskey noted that Fox is eager to acquire television stations in major markets. But he stressed that no decisions have been made. Instead, he said ″we are positioning ourselves for a possible opportunity in the future.″
″We don’t necessarily want to sell the Herald,″ he said.
WFXT, a Fox network affiliate, is now owned by the Boston Celtics Broadcasting Limited Partnership, formed by the owners of the Boston Celtics but separate from the basketball team.
The partnership currently has $10 million in debt it owes to Fox. Under an agreement reached late last week, Fox Television Stations Inc., a unit of Fox, has the right to convert that debt into a 25 percent stake in the partnership after Jan. 1, 1995.
Also, Fox would have the right to pay $15 million to get a 10-year option to acquire an additional 26 percent share of the partnership, which would give Fox majority control.
If that occurred, Fox would have further rights to acquire the remaining partnership interests.
Alan Glasser, a staff attorney with the Federal Communications Commission, said Murdoch’s minority share of the television station might not pose a conflict as long as the station remained insulated from his influence.
But if Murdoch tried to exercise some control over the station, even as a minority owner, ″then it might create a problem,″ Glasser said.