N.Y. Politicians Back Murdoch

From Reuters

New York politicians rallied behind Australian-born publisher Rupert Murdoch on Monday and condemned last-minute congressional legislation that would force him to sell or close his New York Post and Boston Herald newspapers.

Mayor Edward Koch likened the legislation, passed by Congress without debate as part of a year-ending omnibus financing bill, to the Nicaraguan government's shutdown of the opposition newspaper La Prensa.

New York Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said the legislation was "damm wrong" and clearly aimed solely at Murdoch.

"I'm going to find out what we can do and I'm going to go hard at it," said Moynihan. Koch said the legislation could cost 2,000 workers their jobs.

The legislation, introduced by Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.) at the apparent urging of Massachusetts Democrat Edward Kennedy, bars the Federal Communications Commission from considering any changes to its rules on cross-ownership of newspapers and television stations in the same market.

Murdoch owns both newspapers and television stations in New York and Boston, and under the new law cannot apply for a waiver of the rules, a move he has indicated he would consider if he could not find suitable buyers for the newspapers.

The Boston Herald is making a profit, and Murdoch presumably could find a buyer for it, but analysts say he could have trouble finding a new owner for the Post, whose losses are estimated at more than $10 million a year.

New York Times columnist William Safire called Monday for an investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee to determine whether the legislation was aimed at settling old scores.

The Boston Herald has often been critical of Kennedy.

The 1,000-page appropriations bill passed Congress just before Christmas without New York legislators being aware of the provision affecting the Post.

Murdoch has until March 5 to sell or close the Post and until June 30 to do the same for the Herald. Murdoch purchased profitable television stations in both markets last year.

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