News Corp. has hired a D.C. heavyweight to handle its lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill after it becomes primarily a newspaper publishing company.
Antoniette "Toni" Cook Bush will join News Corp. next month as its executive vice president and global head of government affairs. Her hiring is in anticipation of the split of News Corp. into two separate companies. The entertainment assets are being spun off into a new entity called 21st Century Fox while the print operations will remain in News Corp.
A veteran Beltway insider, Bush has spent much of the last two decades at the white shoe firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, where she ultimately had oversight of the firm's Communications Group. She first rose to prominence in Washington as senior counsel for the Communications Subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which has oversight over both the Federal Communications Commission, and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
In that role, she played a key part in crafting media industry legislation including the Cable Television Act of 1992.
"Toni is preeminent in her vast and subtle knowledge of policy, and in her appreciation of the profound social efficacy of news, information and education," said Robert Thomson, chief executive of the new News Corp., to whom Bush will report.
Bush also has a close relationship to the Obama administration and is a cousin of Obama advisor Valerie Bowman Jarrett.
One key issue that Bush will focus on is convincing the FCC to relax its rules prohibiting the ownership of a newspaper and television station in the same market. In most big cities, owning a paper and TV station is prohibited. News Corp. has a waiver for its ownership of the New York Post and WNYW-TV New York just as Los Angeles Times parent Tribune Co. has one to also own KTLA-TV here.
But if News Corp. wants to continue to buy newspapers in big cities where it also owns TV stations, it will need the FCC to eliminate or at least relax its regulations. Although the TV stations News Corp. currently owns will be part of 21st Century Fox after the split, since Rupert Murdoch will be chairman of both entities the rules will still apply.
After the split, longtime News Corp. government relations head Michael Regan will continue in that role for the new 21st Century Fox.
Follow Joe Flint on Twitter @JBFlint.