Zuckerman makes Post play

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New York Daily News publisher Mortimer Zuckerman is offering to buy his paper's local rival if the government orders News Corp. to sell the New York Post as a condition of acquiring a second TV station in the Big Apple.

Zuckerman said the papers' news operations would remain separate but would combine their production and business sides in a joint operating agreement. News Corp officials scoffed that Zuckerman's promise was nothing more than ploy arranged by critics of their company's plan to acquire WWOR-TV New York and nine other stations owned by Chris-Craft. "Mr. Zuckerman has never approached us about buying the Post and the Post isn't for sale," said a News Corp. spokesman.

Zuckerman made his pledge April 12, one day after public advocacy groups represented by Georgetown University Law Center asked the real estate and publishing tycoon if he had any interest in buying the Post. The public interest groups argue that News Corp., which has a waiver to own another TV outlet and the Post despite a ban on local newspaper/TV station cross-ownership, should not be allowed to extend the waiver to a second station in the market.

The company last week provided new financial information, nearly all of it confidential, backing up the company's contention that the Post will go out of business if regulators force the paper to be sold.

Forcing a sale to Zuckerman, whose paper also is suffering financial problems, would do nothing to promote the FCC's goal of media diversity, Fox officials added. "I can see why Mr. Zuckerman would want to buy out his chief rival, but I don't see how that helps the newspaper readers of New York," the company spokesman said. - Bill McConnell

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