Murdoch’s crossownership waiver stands


Back in January the FCC voted 3-2 to deny a petition for reconsideration of a 2006 decision continuing the waiver for News Corporation to continue to own two TV stations in New York and the New York Post. Somehow, the order has just now been publicly released.

The incident began when related companies moved shares around – in this case, control of Fox Television Stations Inc. was transferred from K. Rupert Murdoch to Fox Entertainment Group Inc., as News Corporation reorganized and moved its corporate domicile from Australia to the United States. It did nothing to change the status of any co- or cross-owned stations, or in this case any co- AND cross-owned stations. Besides the Post, the cluster included WWOR-TV and WNYW-TV.

Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ, Inc. and Rainbow/PUSH Coalition took exception. (Watchdog Free Press had previously objected).

The FCC said that that UCC/PUSH lacked standing in the matter, since they didn’t participate in the process wherein the cluster was allowed in the first place.

It had been allowed over Free Press’s complaint and was granted on its own merit, said the FCC. A prime consideration was keeping the newspaper afloat financially, along with the fact that the New York market contains many independent media voices.

FCC found it telling that Free Press did not rejoin the issue – it would have had the standing that OCC/PUSH lacked.

Interestingly, the current FCC majority, Democrats Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein, were in the minority when the vote was taken. They had also dissented from the original decision in 2006 and were miffed that their statements of objection were not attached to that order. So, each repeated their objections — and this time they were released with the order denying reconsideration. Copps and Adelstein each complained that the FCC had waved through the waivers without doing its job of ensuring that they were in the public interest.

RBR/TVBR observation: Any time there is a transfer of control, the FCC usually makes parties rejustify every single waiver, right down to stations being satellites of one flagship station in far-flung western and mid-western markets. Maybe that’s a good thing, but to us it just looks like a waste of time – and we’re talking the expensive, billable hour kind of time. This seems to be a prime target for regulatory streamlining in the future.