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Koch brothers blast Reed Hundt's remarks on newspaper ownership

Federal Communications CommissionNewspaper and MagazineNews Corp.Television IndustryRupert Murdoch

The Koch brothers are firing back at former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Reed Hundt, who last week made a speech at UCLA in which he said he couldn’t “imagine anything good from the Koch family owning the Los Angeles Times."

A statement posted on KochFacts.com written by Mark Holden, Koch Industries' general counsel, said Hundt was being hypocritical. In his remarks, Hundt advocated removing federal regulations that would prevent Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. from acquiring the Los Angeles Times.

"I'd rather have Murdoch than the Kochs own The Times, if it came down to that choice," he said. The Koch brothers, he charged, "use money and media to misinform, misdirect and make miserable all of us."

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The response statement pointed out that when Hundt was chairman of the FCC during the Clinton administration, he made no effort to remove rules that limited common ownership of newspapers and television stations in the same market. It also cited remarks Hundt made in a 2003 interview with Salon in which he advocated keeping the cross-ownership ban in place for the sake of media diversity. 

"At that time, he advocated for maintaining the rules, as well as 'market structures that provide multiple voices' and decried 'regulations that tell people what to say,'" the statement on KochFacts.com said. Now, it continued, Hundt has changed his mind and "wants the rules against cross-ownership relaxed so someone other than the Kochs, with whom he disagrees on political and public policy issues, can own the L.A. Times."

The Kochs said that while they have no issue with the rules being removed, "we object to Mr. Hundt’s disturbing proposal that the government change the rules in order to punish one group or individual and favor another group or individual because of a disagreement over their exercise of 1st Amendment rights of free speech concerning political and public policy views." 

The billionaire Koch brothers, who have holdings in consumer products and oil refining, are known for their support of conservative causes.

Hundt, a Democrat, said in an interview that the Koch statement "proves my point that they distort public dialogue." He reiterated from his remarks last week that a lot has changed in the media landscape over the past decade as new platforms have emerged and led the way for more diversity of news and analysis.

Tribune Co. has hired investment bankers to explore a possible sale of its newspaper group, including the Los Angeles Times. The Koch brothers  have expressed interest in acquiring newspapers but have not commented specifically on speculation that they are eyeing the Los Angeles Times or other papers owned by Tribune.

ALSO:

Ex-FCC Chairman Reed Hundt wary of Koch Bros.

Activists rally against potential sale of LA Times to Koch Bros.

Follow Joe Flint on Twitter @JBFlint

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This post was updated to note that Koch Industries General Counsel Mark Holden wrote the response to Reed Hundt's speech.

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