Calling a truce in its dispute with the rival Fox network, NBC withdrew on Friday a complaint challenging Fox’s ownership structure.
NBC’s action will not affect a separate Federal Communications Commission investigation into Fox’s ownership because the network is not a party to that case, Richard Cotton, NBC’s general counsel, said in an interview.
NBC said it dropped the petition because the company had succeeded in doing what it had intended to do: turn up the regulatory heat on Fox and persuade the FCC to re-examine its foreign ownership rules.
NBC also said the feud has been interfering with business and political dealings with Fox.
For one thing, negotiations had been broken off several times with Fox’s parent, News Corp., for carriage of two NBC program services on a satellite TV system serving much of Asia, News Corp. officials said.
News Corp. now has an agreement in principle with NBC to carry CNBC Asia and NBC Super Channel Asia on the Star TV system, said a News Corp. official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Citing common political interests in pending telecommunications reform legislation, NBC officials said it makes more sense to work with Fox in Washington rather than fight.
“We believe it is now appropriate to seek withdrawal of our petitions and for us to cooperate with Fox on other matters of mutual interest,” NBC President Bob Wright said.
News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch agreed. “With NBC’s withdrawal, News Corp. looks forward to working together with NBC and other networks to seek elimination of outdated broadcast regulations and to the resumption of normal business relations with NBC,” he said.
NBC filed a petition with the FCC in November, asking the agency to “either enforce the rules on the books or change them to allow everyone the benefit.”
Last week, the FCC opened proceedings to consider making it easier for foreign companies to invest in U.S. broadcast stations and telecommunications companies.
By law, a foreign company or individual is not allowed to own more than 25% of a broadcast station unless the FCC finds that it is in the public interest.
The FCC is investigating whether Fox’s acquisition of six TV stations that make up the foundation of the network violated foreign ownership rules.
The investigation is in response to a complaint filed by the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People in November, 1993.
The NAACP claimed that Fox masked its true corporate structure and that its foreign ownership denied opportunities to members of U.S. minority groups.
Fox has denied this.
Fox has said that all but 1% of the $600 million used to purchase the stations was put up by News Corp., which is based in Australia. Murdoch, who became a U.S. citizen to buy the stations, controls the company.