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.”
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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 1989-92.