As noted by an account on the TVNewser blog (7/11/11), on ABC‘s This Week panel there was some talk of Rupert Murdoch losing his U.S. television licenses over the News of the World phone hacking scandal. There is a “character clause” for broadcast licensees, and the current scandal would go a long way towards demonstrating a certain type of bad behavior. Here’s how panelist Steven Brill put it:
News Corp has a lot of FCC licenses. There’s still a clause in the federal communications law that requires that you have to be of good character to have such a license, and I was reading last night just in the approval that they gave Comcast to take over NBC, there was actually some guy who challenged the character of Comcast because when they installed a cable system somewhere they had hurt his building, and didn’t pay for it. And this became a big legal proceeding, action.
So here I am reasonably certain that someone, maybe someone from the political left or whoever, is going to make a big deal of whether they are fit to have their FCC licenses under the current management.
Once upon a time, Extra! raised this issue with General Electric‘s NBC licenses, in “Felons on the Air: Does GE‘s Ownership of NBC Violate the Law?” (11-12/94). GE‘s record at the time including defrauding the Pentagon, fraud and money laundering. All that, unfortunately, didn’t disqualify them from getting valuable licenses to control a hefty share ofthe public airwaves.
Here’s panelist Steven Brill: