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.
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.
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