WILL THE FCC YANK MURDOCH’S TV LICENSES?
A report by a parliamentary committee on Monday calling Rupert Murdoch unfit to oversee his media empire has inevitably touched off demands in the U.S. that he be stripped of his Fox TV broadcast licenses in this country. Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said in a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, “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 1980s, the FCC yanked the licenses of stations owned by RKO General after it determined that the parent company had engaged in “anticompetitive and possibly illegal” reciprocal trade practices. The commission noted that while “this misconduct was not directly related to RKO’s broadcasting activities … such non-broadcast misconduct called into question the character qualifications of the licensee and its ability to serve the public interest.” While many observers had expected that the final report by the committee would be severely critical of James Murdoch, who headed News International, the News Corp subsidiary that oversees the company’s British newspapers, few expected that it would censure the senior Murdoch so severely. The report, however, was somewhat undermined by Conservative members of the committee, who maintained that it went too far and that it was an attempt to influence improperly the media regulator OFCOM, which is seeking to determine whether News Corp. is a fit and proper entity to operate BSkyB, Britain’s premier satellite service. Murdoch quickly lined up supporters in North America.