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Media Moguls on the March Around the Globe

Murdoch book deals: Gingrich isn't alone

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RUPERT MURDOCH is no stranger to book deals for the politically powerful.

Ask Margaret Thatcher. Or Deng Xiaoping's daughter. Or Saudi Prince Khaled bin Sultan.

When Mr. Murdoch testifies today before the House Ethics Committee about his multi-million dollar book deal with House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R) of Georgia, the global media entrepreneur will be on familiar ground. There's no public evidence that such book deals are directly tied to special favors. But whether it be in Washington, or London, or Beijing, Murdoch's ability to bend or suspend regulations, which may inhibit the growth of his media empire, is shown with uncanny frequency.

Both here and abroad, Murdoch and his $12 billion News Corporation media empire have been granted such things as waivers to foreign ownership rules and exemptions from anti-monopoly provisions.

''It's the way he operates. He finds out who the most important person is, cozies up, and zeroes in on them to get what he wants,'' says a House Democratic aide.

''Rupert Murdoch through bold, creative, and savvy planning has been able to take excellent advantage of the FCC's regulatory process since day one,'' says Andrew Schwartzman of the Media Access Project, a Washington law firm. Schwartzman was referring to last Friday's FCC decision to grant Murdoch an exemption to the foreign ownership rules.

''I'm not prepared to say there's anything unlawful, particularly in the context of a system that is manipulated by others as well,'' Schwartzman says. ''It's just that [Murdoch] is very good at it, and exceptionally well positioned.''

The House Ethics Committee will ultimately determine whether there was anything inappropriate about Mr. Gingrich's accepting a $4.5 million book advance, which was done with an impressive array of legislation pending before the US Congress in which Murdoch has a direct stake.

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