On ABC’s This Week it was discussed that The News Of The World scandal could force Rupert Murdoch and News Corp to fight to keep their FCC licenses in the US.
Here is the round table discussion from ABC’s This Week:
Steve Brill said, “There is an issue here in the United States…News Corp has a lot of FCC licenses there’s still a clause in the federal communications law that requires that you have to be of good character to have such a license, and I was reading last night just in the approval that they gave Comcast to take over NBC, there was actually some guy who challenged the character of Comcast because when they installed a cable system somewhere they had hurt his building, and didn’t pay for it and this became a big legal proceeding, action. So here I am reasonably certain that someone, maybe someone from the political left or whoever is going to make a big deal of whether they are fit to have their FCC licenses under the current management.”
Michael Wolff added, “But it’s not a matter just of a broad generalized anti-Murdoch notion of fitness, let’s remember what we have here. Forget, this is on one hand not about journalism at all. What it is about is a set of crimes. I mean, they literally committed crime after crime after crime. So it is going to come back to who knew what and who knew it when.”
There is a lot riding globally on the findings of the News Of The World investigation. If Murdoch’s son James who runs News Corp faces criminal charges related to growing scandal, it is almost certain that News Corp’s FCC licenses will be challenged.
Section 308 b of the Communications Act states,
(b) All applications for station licenses, or modifications or renewals thereof, shall set forth such facts as the Commission by regulation may prescribe as to the citizenship, character, and financial, technical, and other qualifications of the applicant to operate the station; the ownership and location of the proposed station and of the stations, if any, with which it is proposed to communicate; the frequencies and the power desired to be used; the hours of the day or other periods of time during which it is proposed to operate the station; the purposes for which the station is to be used; and such other information as it may require. The Commission, at any time after the filing of such original application and during the term of any such licenses, may require from an applicant or licensee further written statements of fact to enable it to determine whether such original application should be granted or denied or such license revoked. Such application and/or such statement of fact shall be signed by the applicant and/or licensee in any manner or form, including by electronic means, as the Commission may prescribe by regulation.
In 1986 the FCC narrowed the focus of the character clause to, “the likelihood that an applicant will deal truthfully with the commission, and comply with the Communications Act and our rules and policies.”
Even under this narrowed definition if James Murdoch is charged a legitimate challenge to News Corp’s FCC licenses could be mounted. In order to keep their FCC licenses, News Corp may have to not be run by a Murdoch. What started out as a scandal in the UK has very quickly become a global matter. I would suggest that if the News Of The World investigation finds evidence that criminal activity extended to the top of the organization, then Rupert Murdoch has a very serious problem that could threaten his hands on management of his global media empire.
This threat is the reason why Rupert finally went to London to manage the damage control himself. For years, politicians and fellow media members were afraid to cross Murdoch. Here in the US the mainstream media has had a habit of closing ranks and defending Fox News when their practices have been criticized, but the gloves are starting to come off. Big Bad Rupert has been wounded, and those who once feared his wrath are starting to step forward and take their shots.The fallout from The News Of The World won’t destroy Fox News, but it will definitely put them under more scrutiny.
The biggest change might come in the form of the media’s attitude and approach towards Murdoch. News Corp and Murdoch have been the Mike Tyson of the media. Tyson was once powerful and intimidating. He looked unbeatable. It all changed for Iron Mike after Buster Douglas knocked him out in Tokyo. The intimidation and invincibility were gone and Tyson was never the same.
The News Of The World scandal is Rupert Murdoch and News Corp’s Buster Douglas. The media empire will likely survive this scandal, but in its aftermath, they will likely never be the same.