Notes on the Media

Cable merger war gets dirty

After failing to wrap up the takeover battle for Paramount Communications Inc. because of what it called trickery by Viacom Inc., QVC Network Inc. said Jan. 10 it had extended its $9.9 billion bid until Jan. 21.

Home-shopping network QVC charged that Viacom broke the bidding rules agreed to by all three companies with a ``cynical'' last-minute bid. ``The purpose of an auction is to successively have higher bids.... The other side has turned that on its head. They have offered a lower bid - violating the rules. Forget being just cynical,'' a QVC source said Jan. 9.

Cable-television company Viacom shocked Wall Street Jan. 7 with a two-step plan to merge with Blockbuster Entertainment Corp. in an $8.4-billion deal and bid a total of $9.75 billion in cash and stock for Paramount. Viacom insisted that its offer was superior to QVC's because it offered a greater portion in cash, but few investors or analysts appeared to support that opinion.

Under rules established by Paramount and agreed to by the bidders, QVC must extend the expiration of its offer to coincide with a new Viacom bid, if certain conditions are met.

Among the conditions are that a bid must not be made solely to force an extension of an offer - a condition that apparently is the basis of QVC's claim of a Viacom violation.

US plans to keep European broadcasts

A plan to reorganize the United States foreign broadcast stations - including Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe - and create a new Radio Free Asia is at the top of Congress's agenda when it reconvenes Jan. 25, and is expected to pass by March.

When President Clinton took office, many in his administration said the state-funded Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe had become expensive relics that no longer had a purpose and should be scrapped. But Clinton changed his mind and last June unveiled a plan to reduce their combined budgets by $260 million over the next four years.

The success of extreme nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky in last month's Russian elections has strengthened the hand of those who argue that the radio stations must remain.

The planned savings would be achieved by not going forward with previously planned projects to erect powerful shortwave transmitters in Israel and Kuwait and by eliminating duplication between the various services.

The president of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, William Marsh, quit in protest Jan. 11 at another cost-cutting suggestion: moving the stations' headquarters from Munich to Prague. Czech President Vaclav Havel offered rent-free offices at the former Czech parliament building in Prague.

Pentagon said to restrict access to Internet

US defense officials, worried that computer hackers could invade their data networks, are moving to limit military links to the Internet - backbone of the emerging ``information superhighway'' - a computer magazine said Jan. 10.

Network World said a plan to add a protective gateway, or relay, to the worldwide Defense Data Network - also known as Milnet - has touched off an uproar among computer users both inside and outside the Pentagon.

A brief notice from the Defense Department's network planning group said the introduction of the gateway was due early in 1994, the magazine said.

A Pentagon spokeswoman had no comment on the report.

Critics of the plan argued that the security relay could not handle the volume of electronic mail and data that flows daily between Milnet and Internet users around the world.

Philadelphia Inquirer goes on TV

Knight-Ridder Inc. said Jan. 10 it is launching ``The Inquirer News Hour,'' a nightly local news broadcast based on the reporting from The Philadelphia Inquirer, which Knight-Ridder owns.

Knight-Ridder said a new company, KR Video Inc., will produce the broadcast seven nights a week over WPHL-TV in Philadelphia, from 10 to 11 p.m. EST.

It said the theme of the program, to be produced by broadcast journalists, will be ``tomorrow's newspaper tonight.'' It will highlight the next morning's Inquirer, aiming to give viewers extra insight into news events and giving Inquirer readers an advance look into the top stories in the next day's newspaper.

The company said the program is expected to begin broadcasting by early summer.

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