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An Embarrassment Of Leaks At The Fcc


Up Front: THE FEDS

AN EMBARRASSMENT OF LEAKS AT THE FCC

COMMUNICATIONS SEEM TO BE a big problem at the Federal Communications Commission, especially for Chairman Reed Hundt. He's embroiled in a public tiff over news leaks from the FCC recently while it was probing charges that Australian-born Rupert Murdoch's Fox Broadcasting unit violated foreign-ownership restrictions on U.S. networks.

The FCC's decision to let off the conservative Murdoch, whose New York Post often lambastes Hundt-patron Clinton, is viewed around Washington as a defeat for Hundt, who was said to privately favor sanctions.

Hundt wrote an internal memo calling such reports "wildly inaccurate" and condemning the leaks. A key target of his wrath, say aides: Commissioner James Quello, a 21-year FCC vet and its acting chairman until Hundt took over. Loose lips may have been O.K. "under the old regime," Hundt wrote, "but it's time for a change." Then this memo got leaked.

Quello, who chafes at what he sees as Hundt's abrasiveness, admits that he has been a leaker, but claims the chairman's office is often a worse offender. Hundt aides say the FCC's private deliberations shouldn't be splayed in public but that the chairman and Quello are trying to make peace.EDITED BY LARRY LIGHT WITH OLUWABUNMI SHABI Mark Lewyn


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