Watchdog group asks FCC chairman to revoke FOX broadcast licenses

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) sent a letter May 1 to FCC chairman Julius Genachowski asking the agency to revoke the 27 FOX broadcast licenses News Corp. holds in the United States.

In the letter, the watchdog group told Genachowski that a report from Great Britain's House of Commons detailing its investigation of the phone hacking scandal in Great Britain involving News Corp. found that Rupert Murdoch, chairman and CEO of the media company, is "not a fit person to exercise stewardship of a major international company."

The group said that while the FCC chairman previously has said the agency will not get involved, "further inaction no longer is a viable option," given the findings. U.S. laws allow only people of good "character" who serve the public interest and speak with candor to use broadcast frequencies, the letter said. The group also cited the FCC's Comparative Broadcast Hearings held in 1965 that determined "significant character deficiencies" may be sufficient to disqualify someone from holding a broadcast license.

The phone hacking scandal involves journalists at "News of the World," a U.K. newspaper owned by Murdoch's News Corp., which allegedly hacked into voicemails to intercept messages. The House of Commons report found Murdoch "did not take steps to become fully informed about phone hacking."

In a statement released on the CREW website, Melanie Sloan, the group's executive director said, "The House of Commons report makes clear that both Rupert and James Murdoch (son of Rupert Murdoch) were complicit in New Corp.'s illegal activities. If the Murdochs don't meet the British standards of character test, it is hard to see how they can meet the American standard."

In the letter to the FCC chairman, the group said "it is now abundantly clear both Rupert and James Murdoch lack the requisite character to retain the 27 broadcast licenses News Corp. currently maintains." The letter said "it is clear News Corp. has engaged in a pattern of misbehavior that disqualifies it from holding broadcast licenses."

CREW also sent letters to the House and Senate Commerce Committees asking for hearings on the matter.

On May 2, the Board of Directors of News Corp. announced its "full confidence in Rupert Murdoch's fitness and support for his continuing to lead" the company as chairman CEO.

Conservative media watchdog website reported May 3 that CREW is routinely labeled in the mainstream press as a "liberal watchdog group."

Phil Kurz is a contributing editor to TV Tech. He has written about TV and video technology for more than 30 years and served as editor of three leading industry magazines. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.