Fox FCC Petition FAQ

In response to our petition to the FCC to deny renewal of News Corp.'s Fox broadcast licenses, we've put together this FAQ.

 

What is CREW asking the Federal Communications Commission to do?

CREW is asking the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) not to renew the broadcast licenses of three Fox television stations, two in D.C. and one in Maryland. Those licenses expire on October 1, 2012.


Why is CREW asking for this?

Under the law and FCC regulations, all broadcast licensees must be of good character. Two separate British inquiries have concluded both Rupert and James Murdoch turned a blind eye to the illicit activities at News Corp and one found Rupert Murdoch is not fit to run an international company. If the Murdochs lack good character in Britain, they must lack it in the U.S. as well. Character doesn’t change on the other side of the Atlantic.


Will this have any impact on Fox cable news stations?

No, not directly. Cable stations are treated differently under the law and FCC regulations and do not go through the same licensing process as broadcast network stations.


How is this an ethics issue for CREW?

Under the law, those granted broadcast licenses affect the public interest and are accountable to the listening public for their performance. Licensees who lack good character are more likely to act in a manner that harms the public interest. CREW is filing this petition to protect the public from News Corp., which has demonstrated a willingness to put its financial and corporate interests ahead of the public interest.


What is the standard the FCC uses to measure character?

The FCC can consider any sort of misconduct in considering character. Relevant factors include the seriousness of the offenses, wilfulness, frequency, and whether and to what extent managers or owners participated.


What is the evidence here of bad character?

Conduct in the U.K. includes the following:

  • Top News Corp. officials, including Rupert Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks, lied before a British investigation – the Leveson Inquiry – about the source of a story run by News Corp.’s The Sun about Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s son having cystic fibrosis.
  • James Murdoch lied to an inquiry conducted by a committee of the House of Commons about not having information about wiretaps before approving a large monetary settlement with the victim of the wiretaps. 
  • Multiple News Corp. executives and reporters have been arrested and charged with illegally intercepting voicemail messages, including the voicemail messages of a young girl, Milly Dowler, which led to the false impression she was still alive. 
  • Rupert Murdoch and News Corp. have promoted an environment of secrecy and lack of candor, including payments of large money settlements that include confidentiality clauses in order to keep the information from investigators and the public. 
  • News Corp. employees have bribed British officials, which in addition to violating British law, also may violate the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. 
  • The House of Commons concluded from all this that Rupert Murdoch “is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company.” We agree.

Conduct in the U.S. includes allegations of hacking phones of 9/11 victims and illegally gaining access to the password-protected system of a company News Corp. was trying to acquire.


What are the next steps?

In response to CREW’s petition, the FCC must determine (1) if facts alleged are true, could a reasonable fact finder conclude Fox lacks the requisite good character; and (2) does CREW’s petition present substantial and material questions? If the answer to both is yes, the FCC is required to hold an evidentiary hearing on whether Fox possesses the requisite character to continue to hold broadcast licenses. At that hearing, Fox will have the burden of proving it is entitled to renewal of its licenses, and CREW will have the opportunity to present evidence and witnesses to rebut that proof.


What happens if the FCC grants CREW’s petition?

In that case, Fox would lose three licenses in D.C. and Baltimore: WTTG, WDCA, and WUTB. In addition, CREW would have grounds to argue the licenses of all of Fox News Corp. subsidiaries in the U.S. should be revoked.


What happens if the FCC denies CREW’s petition?

In that case, CREW could file an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit

 

 

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