In weighing a bid for The Los Angeles Times, Rupert Murdoch finds himself in a familiar role: waiting for rule changes from the government. With the resignation last week of Julius Genachowski, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, he may have to wait a little longer.
Mr. Murdoch, who has never shied away from a regulatory battle, has been beefing up News Corporation’s lobbying efforts in Washington in the last few months to urge regulators to revise a media ownership rule that would prevent the company from acquiring The Los Angeles Times and other newspapers in markets in which it already owns television stations.
“He wants it,” one person close to Mr. Murdoch said of The Los Angeles Times.
“They’re working on getting a waiver now,” added this person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal talks. But another person close to Mr. Murdoch said he currently considered a potential deal more trouble than it is worth given the regulatory hurdles in Washington.
The resignation of Mr. Genachowski, a Democrat, could further stall a plan favored by the departing chairman that would relax a longtime ban on consolidation between television stations and newspapers in local markets. The F.C.C. signaled on Friday that a vote on easing media ownership rules would move forward despite Mr. Genachowski’s departure.
Initially expected to be presented for a vote early this year, the measure has already faced several setbacks. Last month, Mr. Genachowski said there would be no vote until the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, a Washington-based nonprofit, completed a study of the impact of cross-ownership on news gathering. That process could take several weeks, potentially pushing a vote to the summer.
In a series of letters sent to the F.C.C. late last year, Maureen A. O’Connell, News Corporation’s senior vice president for regulatory and government affairs, and Jared S. Sher, a vice president and associate general counsel at the company, argued that regulators should dissolve the cross-ownership rule. “There can be little debate today that the newspaper industry faces existential threats,” Ms. O’Connell wrote in a Dec. 7 letter documenting a meeting with agency officials. “We urged the F.C.C. to eliminate the cross-ownership rule as a relic from a bygone era.”
Any easing of the media ownership rule would face fierce opposition from groups that say too much consolidation threatens a free press. If Mr. Murdoch owned a major Hollywood studio and a newspaper known as the paper of record for the entertainment industry, it could spark additional skepticism.