Group Petitions FCC to Deny Renewal of Fox TV Licenses

Action against News Corp. is seen as a long shot

Washington reaction to the News Corp. hacking scandal has been relatively quiet, but at least one group isn't giving up. The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a petition with the Federal Communications Commission Wednesday asking the agency to deny renewal of three Fox TV station licenses.

The three Fox owned-and-operated TV station licenses set to expire in October are WTTG and WDCA in Washington, D.C., and WUTB in Baltimore.

So far, the FCC has shown no signs that it is or will be looking into whether News Corp.'s problems across the pond in its newspaper businesses are relevant to its TV businesses in the U.S. CREW has gotten no response from its request to the agency last May to revoke all 27 licenses.

In its petition, CREW argued that as the holder of the licenses, News Corp., has not served the public interest and that the FCC should hold a hearing to determine whether Fox should remain a licensee.

"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," said Melanie Sloan, CREW's executive director. "To say those responsible are not of good character is a colossal understatement; 'despicable and loathsome' are more apt."

CREW's case rests partly on a clause in the Communications Act that licenses can be technically revoked over character issues involving station ownership. But as long as the scandal remains a U.K. one and confined to the newspaper business, most communications attorneys believe the chance the FCC will revoke Fox's licenses is a long shot.

Fox declined comment.