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FCC FOX Filing

On July 3, 2023, the Media and Democracy Project filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) a Petition to Deny the broadcast license renewal application for Fox Corp-owned television station FOX 29 Philadelphia (WTXF-TV).

August 22, 2023 Press Release

Founding President of Fox Broadcasting Company, Jamie Kellner, Joins Growing Coalition Seeking FCC Hearing into FOX Broadcast License
 
New filings argue FOX cannot be relied upon to deal truthfully with the public, election lies “shock the conscience,” and Murdochs lack character to remain public interest broadcast licensees

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 22, 2023 — Today, three blockbuster filings were submitted to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in support of the Media and Democracy Project’s (MAD) petition challenging the broadcast license renewal application for FOX Corp-owned television station FOX 29 Philadelphia (WTXF).

The filings include MAD’s formal reply to Fox Television Stations (FTS) opposition submitted earlier this month. MAD is joined by a growing bipartisan coalition filing informal objections calling for an FCC hearing to fully consider the fitness of FOX Corporation (FOX) and the Murdochs to continue as licensees of the public airwaves.

Informal objections were filed by former PBS President and FCC Commissioner Ervin S. Duggan, former Weekly Standard Editor William Kristol, and founding President of Fox Broadcasting Company Jamie Kellner.

Media and Democracy Project Formal Reply

The lies about the 2020 election that aired on Fox News, authorized at the highest levels of FOX’s corporate structure to retain FOX’s conservative viewer base and reverse failing ratings, represent a severe breach of the FCC policy on licensee character qualifications, MAD reaffirmed today in a legal response to their effort to call for an evidentiary hearing into the matter.

In the reply, MAD took the opportunity to fact check and debunk various “strawman” arguments made by FTS in defense of WTXF. MAD argues that not only does the FCC have the authority to convene a hearing, but it has an obligation to do so built on decades of precedent. According to MAD, “Never in the history of the Commission has the agency been confronted with a license renewal applicant whose parent was found by a court of law to have repeatedly presented false news.”

On whether MAD has made the case that FOX is not qualified to be an FCC licensee and the policy violations are sufficient to require an evidentiary hearing, the filing stated:

“FOX knew – from the Murdochs on down – that Fox News was reporting false and dangerous misinformation about the 2020 Presidential election, but FOX was more concerned about short-term ratings and market share than the long-term damage caused by its spreading disinformation.”

“What is astounding is the Opposition’s [FOX’s] utter failure to reckon with the findings of false statements in Dominion that raise substantial and material questions of FOX’s character qualifications to be an FCC licensee.”

"FOX has demonstrated a willingness to lie to preserve its corporate profits. FOX’s lies concerning the outcome of the 2020 election caused a great injury to the American people and the institutions of our democracy. FOX’s willingness to lie demonstrates a fatal character flaw."

Responding to accusations that holding FOX accountable violates the First Amendment, MAD writes:

“This is not a First Amendment case. Rather the issue here concerns a corporation that, with the full knowledge and approval of its management, lied to millions of Americans. The question before the Commission is not whether FOX had a right to lie, rather it is about the consequences of those lies and the impact on FOX’s qualifications to remain an FCC licensee.”

Beyond citing FOX’s willingness to lie as demonstrating a fatal character flaw, MAD highlights numerous instances of “material misrepresentations” in the WTXF renewal application itself. These violations and the station’s false certifications in FCC licensee records are “further evidenc[e of] its propensity for untruthfulness and FOX’s poor character.”

MAD ends its filing by saying, “[a]s such, the Communications Act obligates the Commission to designate these vital questions to be answered in an evidentiary hearing.”

A copy of the MAD’s formal reply to FOX’s opposition is available here.

Duggan-Kristol Informal Objection Supplement

Ervin S. Duggan and William Kristol joined MAD in responding to the “gaping holes” found throughout FOX’s opposition.

The media veterans reiterate their call for an evidentiary hearing, saying:

“Every application for a broadcast license renewal is not only a test for the applicant, but also for the FCC itself. In considering this application, the Commission inevitably will reveal whether it is serious about its regulations, or merely pretending; whether its standards are genuine, or mere shibboleths; whether its regulatory spine is strong, or made of mush.”

The filing points out that the FCC Media Bureau already refuted FOX’s argument in 2012 that the parent company has no involvement in a station’s operations:

“During the last television renewal cycle in 2012, FTS argued that the conduct of its parent company and of affiliates not directly involved in station operations cannot impact a station’s license renewal application, even if that conduct violates the FCC’s policy statements on licensee character. The Fox Reply takes essentially the same tack. But since the Media Bureau went out of its way to say that it did not endorse that position ten years ago, FTS now clothes its position in a new cloak of legalisms and technicalities that have no more merit than its previous bald assertion.”

On FOX’s First Amendment defense, the pair said:

“[D]espite the Fox Reply’s strenuous efforts to obscure the point through First Amendment rhetoric, the character and public-interest standards of the FCC are in fact standards of behavior, not speech. And in invoking the Commission’s character standards, MAD through its petition is asking the FCC to weigh FOX’s behavior, not asking the Commission to evaluate or sanction the content of its speech.”

Duggan and Kristol say this of FOX’s claim that Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch’s role in perpetuating election falsehoods has no bearings over their ownership of WTXF:

“If a broadcast licensee shows poor judgment or questionable character in managing a business that -- but for FCC licensure -- is identical in core objectives and operational particulars to the operation of a broadcast station, that bad judgment and suspect character should speak loudly to the Commission. In fact, it should speak much louder than the direct licensee misconduct in more attenuated contexts, or employees’ misconduct in unrelated businesses, that have provoked the FCC to designate hearings or seek to deny license renewals in the past.”

A copy of the Duggan-Kristol informal objection supplemental is available here.

Jamie Kellner Informal Objection

Former Fox Broadcasting Company (FBC) President Jamie Kellner joined others in calling on the FCC to designate a hearing. Kellner is a well-respected former television executive who was present at the creation of Fox Broadcasting Company.

He was hired by Rupert Murdoch in 1986 to serve as the broadcasting arm’s founding president and chief operating officer and helped FOX establish a foothold as America’s long-sought fourth over-the-air broadcast television network.

In his filing Kellner says, “[m]y amazing colleagues and I worked hard to establish the Fox brand in television and to help Rupert Murdoch become an established force in American Network television.” He goes on to say:

“While I was President of FBC we started a news division that provided daily feeds of national and international news stories for the Fox-owned and affiliated television stations for inclusion in their locally produced newscasts. Unlike the news feeds provided today by Fox News Channel, our news feeds did not prominently feature advocates like Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell spouting nonsensical lies about a Presidential election.”

A copy of the Kellner informal objection is available here.

 

The Media and Democracy Project: MAD is a non-partisan, all-volunteer, grassroots civic membership organization fighting for a more informative and pro-democracy media operating in the public interest. MAD aims to improve our national discourse so that American voters can engage in informed decision-making. As part of that goal, MAD has an interest in the responsibility of journalists and media to report fully, accurately, and fairly on the electoral process and the outcome of elections. Additional information is available at www.MediaAndDemocracyProject.org.

 

Ervin S. Duggan is a veteran of the Lyndon Johnson White House, a former Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission, and former President of PBS.

 

William Kristol is a veteran political analyst and commentator. He served in senior positions in the Ronald Reagan administration and the George H.W. Bush White House. For two decades, he edited The Weekly Standard magazine, and is now editor at large of The Bulwark and a director of the educational and advocacy group, Defending Democracy Together.

 

Jamie Kellner was the Founding President of Fox Broadcasting Company, having also founded The WB Network and served as CEO of Turner Broadcasting System, overseeing networks like CNN, TNT, and TBS.

 

 

 

Contact Details

 

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Aaron Alberico

+1 202-744-0786

aalberico@raynoravenue.com

August 21, 2023 Press Release

Former Republican FCC Chair Joins Growing Chorus Calling for Hearing into License Renewal Application for Fox Philadelphia
 
Alfred Sikes joins bipartisan coalition seeking hearing to determine if Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch meet the character qualification to remain public interest broadcast licensees

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 21, 2023 — Former Republican Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman and broadcast licensee Alfred Sikes today joined the Media and Democracy Project (MAD) and media veterans Ervin S. Duggan and William Kristol to support a petition to deny the broadcast license renewal application for FOX Corporation-owned television station FOX 29 Philadelphia (WTXF-TV).


“The FCC has allowed the public interest responsibility of broadcast licensees to become a bureaucratic construct,” said Alfred Sikes. “The behavior of Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch, highlighted in the MAD petition, raises a first principles question. Is truthful conduct a part of the standard?”

Nominated by President George H.W. Bush, Alfred Sikes served as the FCC Chairman from 1989-1992. Prior to his service as Chair, Sikes was nominated by President Reagan to become Assistant Secretary of Commerce and director of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

As FCC Chair, Sikes supported providing Rupert Murdoch with critical FCC waivers needed to launch Fox Broadcasting Company. Throughout his tenure at the FCC, Sikes opposed the advocacy of Murdoch’s competitors seeking to block efforts to create America’s fourth broadcast network.

“It is noteworthy that Fox News declared Biden the winner in 2020; it was after all paying expert analysts to parse data to help it project winners and losers,” Sikes says in the objection. “And then much of its prime-time news coverage and opinionators fell in behind the Donald Trump version, not the Fox version of the outcome. They choose fiction over non-fiction to make many of its listeners and viewers happy. They knew the facts and decided to ignore them.”

The objection concludes by saying, “The FCC has allowed the pledge to operate in the public interest to become perfunctory at best. If the public interest means anything, the FCC must designate for a hearing the application of the Murdochs and FOX for renewal of their license to operate station WTXF, Philadelphia.”

On July 3, 2023, MAD filed a petition to deny the broadcast license renewal application for Fox Corp-owned television station FOX 29 Philadelphia (WTXF-TV). MAD is calling on the FCC to initiate an evidentiary hearing into FOX’s conduct to examine whether FOX and its leadership have violated the character requirements expected from public trustees granted a broadcast license.

As an FCC broadcast licensee, WTXF-TV, one of 29 FOX subsidiary broadcast stations, has a basic statutory duty to conduct its operations in the “public interest.”

A copy of Alfred Sikes informal objection is available here. A link to MAD’s initial Petition to Deny is available here.

 

Alfred Sikes is a former Administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration during the Reagan Administration. He was nominated by President George H.W. Bush to the Federal Communications Commission where he served as the Republican Chairman from 1989-1992.

 

For media inquiries, please contact Aaron Alberico at aalberico@raynoravenue.com.

August 3, 2023 Press Release

The following statement can be attributed to the Media and Democracy Project (MAD):

MAD has received FOX's response to our FCC Petition and is thoroughly reviewing it. As expected, Murdoch's attorneys are attempting to manipulate FCC procedure to evade scrutiny, but the truth will prevail. WTXF is one of 29 stations owned by FOX, and the ultimate control lies with Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch. There is no hiding from that reality. This isn't an issue of protected speech; it's an issue of egregious misconduct that shocks the conscience following decisions by FOX's most senior management to knowingly broadcast false news.

Never before has the Commission been confronted with so much evidence attached to a petition that clearly shows that an FCC broadcast licensee undermined that trust. The FCC must initiate a hearing on FOX's qualification to be trustees of our nation's airwaves.

Any attempts to silence our all-volunteer group is an attempt to silence citizens seeking to participate in our democratic institutions and petition the agencies empowered to hold companies like FOX to account.

July 31, 2023 Press Release

Media Veterans Ervin Duggan and William Kristol Join Forces, Urging FCC Hearing Into Character Fitness of FOX and Murdochs to Remain Public Interest Broadcast Licensees 

Bipartisan Support Bolsters Media and Democracy Project’s Petition Seeking to
Deny Renewal of FOX’s Broadcast License for WTXF-Philadelphia

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 31, 2023 — Today, former PBS President Ervin S. Duggan and former Weekly Standard Editor William Kristol filed a joint informal objection to the broadcast license renewal application for Fox Corp-owned television station FOX 29 Philadelphia (WTXF-TV).

 

The pair's informal objection urges the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to hold a hearing that examines whether Fox Corporation (FOX) and its leadership have violated the character requirements expected from public trustees granted a broadcast license. The Duggan-Kristol objection follows a formal Petition to Deny filed by the Media and Democracy Project (MAD) earlier this month. It brings high-profile bipartisan backing to the group's efforts.

 

"As media veterans, we are acutely aware of the power afforded to those who control the information broadcast on our nation's airwaves," said Ervin S. Duggan. "Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch's role in perpetuating election falsehoods stands as a blatant violation of the character requirements expected of those the FCC entrusts to hold a broadcast license."

 

In the pair's objection, Duggan and Kristol say that although they were members of different parties when they served in government—and had different perspectives on many issues throughout their respective careers in public service and journalism—they strongly believe that American democracy must be grounded in open, respectful, and factual debate.

 

The objection goes on to say, "[w]e believe that media companies who are directly or indirectly granted the privilege to serve the public through the operation of FCC-licensed television stations have a corollary duty to facilitate and strengthen democracy by participating in that debate—not by hiding their opinions, nor by providing 'equal time' on all issues to outside parties, nor by merely chasing ratings or corporate stock price, but by adhering to the highest journalistic standards in reporting and distributing news to ensure that the public has solid facts upon which to make the decisions that are essential to our society's future as a democracy."

 

"The adjudication of the Dominion case unequivocally established that Fox News Channel repeatedly disseminated false news, and the Fox cable channels and its broadcast ones are clearly intimately linked, as Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch hold the authority for decision-making over both," said William Kristol. "The Commission should follow the well-established legal framework and conduct a hearing to fully consider the fitness of FOX and the Murdochs to continue as licensees of the public airwaves."

 

WTXF is one of 29 broadcast television stations owned and operated by FOX through its 100 percent ownership of Fox Television Stations, and the ultimate control over these enterprises rests with Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch. Their controlling interest in FOX and all its various broadcast subsidiaries means

 

they are the de facto party seeking renewal of the WTXF license. The judge overseeing the Dominion litigation refused to excuse Rupert from the case that found both Murdochs had presided over the presentation of false news. Similarly, the FCC must refuse calls to excuse the Murdochs from accountability and at a minimum initiate a hearing, if not outright deny their license renewal application.

 

A copy of the full Duggan-Kristol informal objection is available here. A link to MAD’s initial Petition to Deny is available here.

 

Ervin S. Duggan is a veteran of the Lyndon Johnson White House, a former Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission, and former President of PBS.

 

William Kristol is a veteran political analyst and commentator. He served in senior positions in the Ronald Reagan administration and the George H. W. Bush White House. For two decades, he edited The Weekly Standard magazine, and is now editor at large of The Bulwark and a director of the educational and advocacy group, Defending Democracy Together.

 

For media inquiries, please contact Aaron Alberico at aalberico@raynoravenue.com

July 6, 2023 Press Release

FCC Petition Seeks to Deny Renewal of FOX’s Broadcast License for its Philadelphia Station, WTXF on 30-Month Anniversary of the Capitol Insurrection
 
The Media and Democracy Project Seeks an FCC Hearing on Whether FOX is Qualified to Remain an FCC Broadcast Licensee based on its Intentional Distortion of News Broadcast to the Public

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 6, 2023 — The Media and Democracy Project (MAD) announced its filing of a petition to deny the broadcast license renewal application for Fox Corp-owned television station FOX 29 Philadelphia (WTXF-TV). MAD filed their objection before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), alleging that senior management of Fox Corporation (FOX) manipulated its audience by knowingly broadcasting false news about the 2020 election. Its intentional and chronic news distortion further divided the country, sowing discord that was a contributing factor to the attack on our nation's Capitol on January 6, 2021.

This editorial was reprinted with permission from The Blade. The newspaper's website is ToledoBlade.com.

Fox: law vs. power 

THE BLADE EDITORIAL BOARD

JULY 9, 2023

We are about to find out whether power or the law is paramount in the United States.

 

At stake is the local TV empire of Fox Broadcasting and the Federal Communications Act, which requires a character assessment to hold the license to operate a station.

 

Fox owns 29 TV stations in 14 of the top 15 TV markets in the nation. Each one of these stations is an extremely valuable business, required to operate in the public interest as a condition for the FCC license which allows transmission through the public airwaves.

 

The Fox-owned station in Philadelphia is up for license renewal. A volunteer citizens group called the Media and Democracy Project is challenging the license over the character clause.

 

The broadcast license challenge comes from misconduct by sister company Fox News in the mostly unregulated world of cable television. Specifically the $787 million settlement between Fox News and Dominion Voting Systems for Fox’s false reporting alleging programs in the voting machines produced bogus results which made Joe Biden President of the United States.

 

Discovery in the civil suit against Fox News makes it clear the cable network knew there was no evidence to support these claims but spread them anyway out of fear of losing their audience to other networks even more receptive to the conspiracy thinking.

 

The top brass at Fox News and Fox Broadcasting are the same, Rupert Murdoch and his son Lachlan.

 

The unsubstantiated claims on Fox, allowed by the Murdochs, helped inspire the assault on the Capitol Jan. 6, 2021, as thousands of MAGA faithful gathered to “stop the steal” and keep Congress from certifying election results.

 

If the long-established law behind the FCC character clause has any validity, it must be enforced against Fox Broadcasting where internal documents from the cable news side of the corporation shows that profit comes before truth or the national interest.

 

Based solely on the facts and the law, Fox does not deserve a license to own a broadcast station.

 

If the FCC grants license renewals to a station owner that has knowingly and repeatedly reported false news shown to incite violent insurrection against the government, there is no longer any standard of character required by law.

 

Fox has grown rich and powerful as the network of conservative America and the politicians they support. Applying the law to Fox will be disputed as a political act rather than an unquestioned outcome driven by fact.

 

For those who would make America great again, the best way to start is by placing standards based in law ahead of financial and political power.

 

Fox News paid the $787 million judgment like it was pocket change. The FCC character challenge against Fox Broadcast would administer a more significant lesson about the abuse of a public trust and the government-licensed use of the public airwaves.

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