Murdoch targets end-2006 for business channel launch

MUMBAI: News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch plans to launch a business news channel to counter CNBC. In an interview to be published in the13 February issue of Newsweek, Murdoch said the channel would be up and running by the end of 2006.

"We're in pretty intense discussions with the biggest cable companies, and making quite considerable progress," says Murdoch. "You can expect something fairly soon."

Murdoch also plans to announce a $1 billion plan for adding broadband to DirecTV, the satellite- TV service he controls, by the end of the month. His combined Internet interests, he says, will add up to "a conservative $1 billion" in revenues by 2010, not counting any more acquisitions.

One venture Murdoch does not have in the works is a head-on clash with Google and Yahoo for search business, according to the Newsweek report. Murdoch does plan to enter the market "in those aspects of search where we can target different audiences for advertising. But no way will we do a frontal assault on Google and Yahoo!," he says.

He also has no plans, for now, to offer Fox shows via iTunes as other networks have done. "We're not knocked out by iPod so far," he says. "We have talked to them, to Google and others. But how many people really want to get video on a tiny screen when they already have TiVo or a similar service from their cable company or DirecTV?"

And while Viacom CEO Sumner Redstone broke apart his company in order to boost its stock price, and with dissident investor Carl Icahn expected to unveil a similar plan for Time Warner this week, Murdoch maintains that splitting up is not a winning strategy. "Look at Viacom shareholders. They made little or nothing," he says. "Look at Time Warner. They are very well run. If you split them apart, there's no more than $1 or $2 in it for shareholders. And that's without thinking about [capital gains] taxation ... I don't know what Icahn thinks he's doing. Icahn has gone out on a limb. Even if he succeeds in getting it broken up, and that would be very sad, I don't think he'd make money out of it."

In response to recent reports of predators trolling the wildly popular for potential victims, Murdoch says, "We're being very proactive. We plan to reach out further to school principals, church groups and community organizations to educate them on the safety measures we've developed. For example, no one under 14 is allowed to register on the site, and there are strict limits on who can access profiles of users under 16. We've also got a third of our workforce monitoring the site to prevent inappropriate material from being posted."

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