Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski would not comment on whether or not the agency was investigating Fox's fitness as a licensee in the wake of the British hacking scandal and a Parliamentary committee's finding that News Corp. head Rupert Murdoch was not fit to run an international media company, but he did say it would in appropriate to prejudge the company.
That came in a Senate Commerce Committee hearing when he was again pressed by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) on whether the FCC had initiated its own investigation. It is the second time in as many weeks that Lautenberg, a veteran critic of the company stemming in part from issues related to WWOR Secaucus, N.J., has pressed the chairman on the issue.
While Genachowski was the featured witness at the hearing, with the other commissioners getting very limited time, Lautenberg had each commissioner respond to the News Corp. question.
Lautenberg said that there was evidence that "News Corp. has been involved in a broad range of misconduct reaching the highest levels of the New York-based company and involving actions in the UK and the U.S," and yet the FCC has not announced any plans to investigate. News Corp. applied for renewal of their licenses in 2007, he said, which the FCC has yet to act on. "What does it take for the FCC to begin an investigation?" he asked.
Genachowski said: "Obviously we have important responsibilities under the law and are aware of the serious issues that we see in the U.K." He did not say the FCC had seen any issues in the U.S.
"These matters may come before the FCC as adjudicatory matters. I think it would be inappropriate for us to prejudge them, and also inappropriate to speak about any investigations...We don't comment on the status of investigations," he added.
Commissioner Robert McDowell: "I think the chairman has stated it quite eloquently. I agree with what the chairman says."
Commissioner Mignon Clyburn: "We do have a process in place. Any potential petitioner has a right to file before us and when and if they do we take all those matters seriously and will review it in a timely manner."
Commissioner Rosenworcel: "The Communications Act speaks in terms of character, financial and technical qualifications for broadcast licensees so the commission should monitor the situation."
Commissioner Ajit Pai: " I will associate myself with my colleagues on that questions and commit to you that, in the context of a license renewal proceeding I will study the record very carefully and support appropriate action.
Lautenberg said he thought action was "absolutely required" and "we ought to get going on this."