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A senior News Corp. executive is threatening to pull the company’s flagship Fox network from the public airwaves if it loses its legal battle against Barry Diller’s Aereo.

Speaking at the annual gathering of the National Association of Broadcasters in Las Vegas, Chase Carey, News Corp’s president and chief operating officer, said Fox could become a pay-TV channel.

His remarks come one week after a federal appeals court rejected a plea by the broadcast industry to shut down New York-based Aereo, which uses an array of tiny antennas to pick up free broadcast signals and transmit them to subscribers over the Internet.

“If we can’t have our rights properly protected through legal and governmental solutions, we will pursue a business solution,” said Carey, adding, “One solution would be to take the network and make it a subscription service. We’re not going to sit idly by and let people steal our content.”

In March 2012, one month after the service was launched, Fox, ABC, CBS and NBC sought a preliminary injunction against Aereo, arguing it violates their copyrights. Aereo countered that it simply rents antennas to customers so they can view content that is already available for free. Last July, a federal judge denied the injunction, prompting the networks to appeal.
While Carey was speaking in Vegas, News Corp. released a statement saying it is “committed to broadcasting under a business model where programmers receive fair compensation from parties that want to redistribute our product while continuing to make our product available for free to individual consumers that want to access our signal.”
It continued, “We believe that Aereo is pirating our broadcast signal. We will continue to aggressively pursue our rights in the courts, as well as pursue all relevant political avenues, and we believe we will prevail.”

Fox owns 27 TV stations and serves dozens of affiliates. If it went off the airwaves, about 10 percent of TV households would reportedly stop receiving its programming. “It would be a total disaster for the affiliates,” Matthew Barry, chief of staff to FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, told Politico.

But Dennis Wharton, spokesman for the broadcasters’ association, tried to allay fears, noted the publication, saying, “We believe broadcasters are going to prevail in the Aereo case, so we won’t have to see Fox do this.”

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