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Report: News Corp. courts Democrats
Company behind Fox News turns to party insiders to lobby against new ratings system, newspaper says.
August 9, 2005: 9:09 AM EDT
News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch is well-known for his conservative political views, but his company is reportedly turning to Democratic insiders to fight a new television ratings system.
News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch is well-known for his conservative political views, but his company is reportedly turning to Democratic insiders to fight a new television ratings system.

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - News Corp., whose Fox News cable network is generally associated with conservative hosts and viewers, is turning to Democrats to battle a new television ratings system, according to a published report.

The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that News Corp. is hiring Democratic party insiders to court Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill to block a new local-TV ratings system that lowers ratings for many of its stations.

The company contends that the so-called "Local People Meters," launched by Nielsen Media Research in four major television markets last year, greatly undercounts the number of African-Americans and Hispanics watching shows such as "Girlfriends" and "The Parkers."

The shows air on Viacom (Research)-owned UPN network, but News Corp. (Research) owns several big-city affiliates of the network, and the local people meters affect the ratings used to set rates from local advertisers.

People meters are already in place for national television ratings, but this is the first time that Nielsen has used them for local ratings. The meters replaces the paper diaries that the company has relied on for decades.

News Corp. is pushing legislation that would require any new television-ratings system to be cleared by an industry board, the paper reports. It has the support of members of both parties. The efforts of News Corp. are a sign that even with the Republicans controlling both the executive branch and Congress, companies often must win the support of Democrats to be successful.

The Journal reports that among those lobbying on behalf of News Corp. are Howard Wolfson, a spokesman for Sen. Hillary Clinton's 2000 Senate campaign; Mike Feldman, a top adviser to Al Gore; Chris Lehane, a political strategist for former President Bill Clinton; and Minyon Moore, who helped found the liberal America Coming Together group that spent millions last year trying to defeat President Bush.

The newspaper reports that while Sen. Clinton and another influential Democrat, California Sen. Barbara Boxer, were early supporters of the company's effort, neither has signed onto the legislation yet. The only two Democrats to sign onto the bill at this point are New York Reps. Eliot Engel and Carolyn Maloney.

The newspaper reports that while it is popularly assumed that Fox and News Corp. is uniformly conservative, News Corp. contributed 55 percent of $130,500 in individual donations from its political action committee to Democrats in 2004 after making 57 percent of donations from the company's PAC to Republicans between 1997 and 2003.

The newspaper also reports that while News Corp. Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch has made no secret of his conservative political views, Peter Chernin, the company's chief operating officer, is a major Democratic fund-raiser. The paper reports that Chernin and his wife raised more than $100,000 for John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign, and that the couple also contributed $73,000 out of their own pockets to Democratic lawmakers during the 2004 campaign.

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For a look at reports of a split between Murdoch and his adult children that could affect News Corp.'s future, click here.  Top of page

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