New York Fox TV station license renewals challenged

Two organizations have asked the FCC to reject license renewal applications by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. of Fox New York television stations WWOR-TV and WNYW-TV.

The United Church of Christ (UCC) and the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition said that under FCC rules, Murdoch’s license renewals should be denied because he owns the “New York Post” newspaper in the same market. The groups asked the commission to rescind temporary waivers granted to Fox “and to deny renewal outright” to both stations.

“If the FCC rescinds Fox’s waiver, as UCC and Rainbow/PUSH Coalition seek, renewal of the licenses for WWOR and WNYW would violate the plain language of the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rule and the applications would be defective,” said a summary of the 71-page petition.

Cheryl Leanza, an attorney who is managing director for the UCC, said the FCC should enforce existing rules meant to counter excessive media consolidation. “The increasing concentration of media ownership is an issue that affects many local communities,” Leanza said. “Whoever owns and controls local media outlets controls which issues and stories get covered in the news and, moreover, controls how those stories get told.”

The UCC’s petition includes declarations from a variety of UCC members and pastors from New York and New Jersey who say they are harmed by increasing centralization of newsgathering operations.

Earlier this year, a UCC-filed license challenge against Univision resulted in a record-setting FCC fine of $24 million against the Spanish-language network for its failure to comply with children’s educational programming guidelines.