The FCC has rejected a petition to deny the renewals of three Fox TV stations, saying there has been no final adjudication of allegations of bribery , phone hacking and more against parent News Corp. in the United Kingdom. But it also signaled that did not prevent it from finding differently once there was a final adjudication of what it said were serious charges.
Fox had argued that the petition was "fatally flawed" because there had been only testimony, no adjudicated facts, or a trial or a right to counsel or to cross examine witnesses.
A year ago, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington petitioned to deny the renewals of WTTG and WDCA in Washington and WUTB in Baltimore, alleging that "News Corp. and Rupert Murdoch have engaged in a pattern of conduct that demonstrates that they and Fox lack the character required to hold a broadcast license."
In denying the petition, the video division of the FCC's Media Bureau (it was not a commission-level decision) pointed out that "none of the allegations pertain to wrongdoing by Fox or the Stations and none of them are supported by an affidavit based upon personal knowledge of the facts alleged."
Although a British Parliamentary Committee did find that . But the Parliament select committee is not a judicial process, the FCC pointed out. To find against a station owner on character qualifications, there must be an ultimate decision by a trier of fact, either government agency or court, which is not yet the case in the phone hacking scandal.
But when that decision is rendered, the FCC pointed out, it could be a different story.
"Our ruling today does not minimize the seriousness of the allegations that have been raised, does not represent a judgment on the merits of any ongoing investigation of those allegations, and does not represent a predetermination of how the Commission will act should there ultimately be an adjudication on the merits of any of the allegations that have been raised," the bureau said.
It added that the decision was also subject to the bureau's final determination of its investigations into allegations "concerning the accuracy, completeness, and truthfullness of of Fox representations regarding its WWOR-TV Secaucus, N.J.
“The News Corp. matter isn’t going away. There’s more to come. We’ll have our shot,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW. “The FCC left the door open on this. They found the allegations serious,, but they are waiting for some sort of adjudication. “
And so will CREW. “We will wait until there is an adjudication, and then we will renew our petition.” She pointed out that the FCC did not say that just because the allegations involved matters in Britain, it does not count. “The FCC is clearly concerned about what happened. “
Fox had no comment.