Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) sent letters to the heads of the House and Senate Commerce Committees asking for hearings into whether News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch and his son and News International Chairman James Murdoch met the character qualifications to hold FCC licenses for Fox's 27 TV stations.
The group describes itself as a nonprofit promoting ethics and accountability. It has been a longtime, strong critic of the Murdochs and News Corp. and has already sought FCC documents related to dealings with the FCC and last week said there should be investigations into the hacking scandal on this side of the pond. But now it has zeroed in on the license issue
So far, the Senate Commerce Committee has not scheduled any hearings on the scandal in general, although its chairman, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.), has asked other agencies and a special Dow Jones deal oversight committee to investigate.
"Under the law, broadcast frequencies may be used only by people of good 'character,' who will serve 'the public interest,' and speak with 'candor.' Significant character deficiencies may warrant disqualification from holding a license," said CREW in the letter.
House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) was asked to investigate the scandal, but not specifically the license qualification issue, earlier this week by ranking member Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), but has not said whether he will.
CREW said the issue would normally have been in the FCC's court, but that FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has said the FCC "will not get involved." Actually, Genachowski has said that he didn't think the FCC would be getting involved in the investigation of the UK phone hacking scandal, but that if other issues arose, the Mass Media Bureau was there to deal with them.
An FCC spokesman confirmed that the chairman has never ruled out the FCC getting involved.
CREWS's letter came two days after veteran Fox TV station critic, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), wrote to the FBI to tell them about 2005 allegations of hacking against News Corp.'s News America Marketing. CREW referenced those allegations in making its arguments for the license qualification investigation.