Could Fox Broadcasting Company be damaged by the phone-hacking scandal that has plagued its parent company News Corp.?
Watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a petition with the FCC on Wednesday, asking that the agency deny renewal of the broadcast licenses of three Fox stations, in light of the scandal that erupted in England last year.
CREW claims that the licenses for two Fox stations in Washington, D.C. and one in Baltimore, Md., should not be renewed because U.S. law says that broadcast frequencies should only be used by those of good "character" who serve "the public interest" and speak with "candor" — qualities that don't exactly jibe with the hacking scandal.
“It is well established that News Corp. has been involved in one of the biggest media scandals of all time. Its reporters hacked voicemails and bribed public officials while top executives — including Rupert Murdoch — either approved the conduct or turned a blind eye,” Melanie Sloan, CREW's executive editor, said of the petition. “To say those responsible are not of good character is a colossal understatement – ‘despicable’ and ‘loathsome’ are more apt.”
The stations' current licenses are due to expire in October. Under federal law, broadcast licenses must be renewed every eight years, and the stations filed for renewal in June.
Its unclear how effective CREW's efforts will be. For one thing, the group previously lobbied FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski to revoke 27 of News Corp.'s broadcast licenses, to no avail. For another, if broadcast licenses truly were limited to those of good character who work in the public interest, the airwaves would probably offer a pretty empty landscape.
Fox had no comment for TheWrap on CREW's petition.
News Corp.'s phone-hacking scandal erupted last year, leading to several high-profile dismissals, government hearings, a multitude of lawsuits, criminal charges and the shuttering of the tabloid "News of the World" after 168 years of publication. In another development, the Church of England sold its shares of the company earlier this month in protest of the scandal.