The Belo Corp.-owned Dallas Morning News said House Majority Leader Dick Armey tried to force it to divest one of its Dallas media properties in
retaliation for his son's failure to win the Republican nomination to replace
him (Armey is retiring).
The paper said in a story Monday that Armey attempted to insert language in a
$10 billion military-appropriations bill Friday that would have forced Belo to
sell either the News, WFAA-TV or The Denton Record-Chronicle. The
combo is one of the major market newspaper/broadcast cross-ownerships allowed by
the Federal Communications Commission.
Although the bill did not name Belo, the paper said it was tailored to fit
the company. According to the amendment, the paper said, the FCC would force
divestiture where "a media company owns, in a single market, a
network-affiliated TV station; a predominant newspaper with Sunday circulation
of 750,000 or more that doesn't have a competitor with a Sunday circulation
exceeding 350,000; and a second daily newspaper with Sunday circulation of
25,000 or less." That fits Belo's Dallas holdings, the company said.
The Armey amendment was not included due to objections, in particular from
Waco Democrat Chet Edwards. It could be added this week, but that is unlikely
now given the widespread media attention to Belo's charge.
The paper said that after Scott Armey's April 9 runoff loss for his father's
seat, he accused the paper of "vicious unprofessionalism," and has since refused
to talk to the paper or WFAA-TV about the defeat.
"There is no substantive reason or explanation for this unprecedented
action," said Belo chairman Robert Decherd of the Armey amendment. "His misuse
of congressional leadership powers for personal retaliation toward Belo is not
in keeping with the positive results Congressman Armey has produced for his
constituents during his long tenure as a member of the Texas congressional
Armey's office had not returned calls at press time.