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.