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Fox's Faith-Based Acquisition

Media conglomerate News Corp. yesterday said it's planning to acquire Beliefnet, the world's largest community site built around religion and spirituality.

News Corp. is hoping that its latest acquisition will provide the media giant with an online venue to promote its existing faith-based businesses, as well as another platform for content distribution and advertising revenue.

Terms were not disclosed in the deal, which will see the site being added to News Corp.'s Fox Entertainment Group (FEG) unit.

According to a Fox statement, the unit plans to roll Beliefnet into its growing digital media division, which promotes the company's television and film businesses online.

Beliefnet aims to provide a forum for a thoughtful and tolerant exchange of spiritual ideas. The site includes discussion groups on a number of topics relating to spirituality, including prayer, meditation, major religions and the "God-O-Meter," where blogger Dan Gilgoff weighs in on the presidential candidates' invoking of the Almighty in their campaign rhetoric.

On a blog posting on Beliefnet's site, Editor-in-Chief Steve Walden responded to readers' complaints about the merger, reminding them of Fox's other faith-related assets, such as the religious book publishers Zondervan and HarperOne and the Fox Faith unit that produces spirituality-based films.

Walden also said that Beliefnet for years had been approached by suitors looking to acquire the site. He added that it chose to remain independent until now because none of those earlier bidders would have been able to help the site better meet its mission.

"We created Beliefnet primarily to make a difference, not a killing," Walden wrote. "As I explored the possibilities with News Corp., it became clear that, with their help, Beliefnet would be able to take [a] quantum leap in what we do."

"The best spiritual and religious teachers -- from [evangelical minister and author] Rick Warren to the Dalai Lama -- pass through News Corp. doors," he added. "News Corp.'s reach is enormous. Its proficiency in the areas of video, social networking and media in general is unsurpassed."

Walden's effort to reassure Beliefnet members about the acquisition may have fallen on a few deaf ears, however, as some members fired back at the deal in a comment thread.

"All it means is more in-your-face ads, spam in your mailbox and some corporate types who think spirituality is a commodity that's bought and sold on the 50th floor of some office tower run by caffeine addicts who whine about ratings," one member wrote this morning under the handle "Capt-Kirk".