Local TV

Sharpton, City Council Members Petition for FCC to Pull News Corp.'s Waiver

National Action Network collecting signatures online to call for review 2/23/2009 10:36:51 AM Eastern

The Rev. Al Sharpton and several New York city council members want the FCC to pull News Corp.'s waiver that allows it to own two TV stations-WNEW and WWOR-serving the New York market.

Sharpton's National Action Network is collecting signatures on an online petition in an effort to get the FCC to review the waiver, arguing it gives the company too much control of the media market. News Corp. also owns the New York Post and The Wall Street Journal.

The petition drive was prompted in part by a New York Post cartoon that used the killing of a rampaging chimpanzee to criticize President Barack Obama's economic stimulus package, suggesting to some an ugly slur from the nation's racist past. The Post apologized for offending anyone, but Sharpton and others were not assuaged.

"We the undersigned do hereby request an immediate review of the 'Waiver' extended to News Corporation and Rupert Murdoch, a waiver that allows him/them to own/control one or more Television stations in the same city where they own one or more newspapers (New York City, NY)," the petition read. "This seems to give an imbalanced monopoly to the public airwaves and an imbalance in commercial speech, in particular, in light of their blatant insensitivity to issues of race (i.e. the N.Y. Post Cartoon) and bias through the use of those publicly owned and federally licensed communication tools."

Sharpton also said he would lead a "delegation" to Washington to meet with FCC commissioners about the waiver challenge.

The waiver has been the source of other challenges, including by United Church of Christ and the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, but in that case it was over the allegation that WWOR, which is licensed to Secaucus, NJ, "failed to provide a program service and adequately meet the needs of its northern New Jersey viewers."

News Corp. got the waiver to own two stations and The Post because of the newspaper's ill financial health. The FCC can make exceptions for a purchase that would actually result in the preservation of a voice in the market. It was allowed to buy the Wall Street Journal because that was considered a national, not local, paper, similar to Gannett's USA Today.

A spokeswoman for the National Action Network did not have a figure for how many had signed the petition so far. An FCC spokesperson was checking into the status of the station's license renewals.

 

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