TCI Reportedly Studying Plan to Repurchase Liberty Media : Telecommunications: New FCC rules would let Liberty, spun off by the cable giant two years ago, rejoin its former parent.

From a Times Staff Writer

Tele-Communications Inc., the nation's largest cable TV operator, is reportedly considering a plan to reacquire control of Liberty Media Corp., a concern with extensive interests in programming that it spun off two years ago to placate regulators.

A source close to the company said TCI is considering buying the roughly 90% of Liberty it does not already own.

The move apparently was prompted partly by new rules adopted by the Federal Communications Commission last month clearing the way for greater concentration of ownership in the cable field.

The deal under consideration might also figure in the takeover bidding for media giant Paramount Communications Inc.

A combined TCI-Liberty might be able to provide extra financial help for the effort by QVC Network Inc., a home shopping network, to buy Paramount.

Liberty is a major shareholder in QVC and has agreed to support its $9.5-billion offer for Paramount, but a merged TCI-Liberty might provide extra financial help.

Liberty Media was spun off by TCI in 1991 in response to concerns among regulators over TCI's extensive holdings in both cable programming and cable systems. But media baron John C. Malone, an ally of QVC Chairman Barry Diller, has stayed in control of both companies, as president of TCI and chairman of Liberty Media.

Then, last month, the Federal Communications Commission issued new rules for cable ownership that apparently allow TCI and Liberty to reunite. The regulations provide that a cable operator could not control more than 30% of all cable homes or own interests in more than 40% of the programming channels on its cable systems.

TCI, serving 18% of the nation's subscribers, and the far smaller Liberty fall well below those thresholds.

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