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Fox renews call for FCC to decide WTXF license renewal application

Attorneys representing the company say the agency has had plenty of time to weigh the matter and issue a decision in their favor.

Attorneys representing the company say the agency has had plenty of time to weigh the matter and issue a decision in their favor.

The studios of Fox station WTXF appears in an undated image. (Photo via Google Street View)
The studios of Fox station WTXF appears in an undated image. (Photo via Google Street View)

Executives at Fox Corporation have renewed their call for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to approve their application to renew the license of a Philadelphia-area television station.

In a letter sent to the FCC Secretary Marlene Dortch this week, Fox Senior Counsel Matthew DelNero and John Cobb said the agency spent more than a year weighing whether to approve the application concerning the broadcast license of WTXF (Channel 29), and the time to act is now.

The application has been held up due to opposition from a grassroots organization called the Media and Democracy (MAD) Project, which counts numerous Fox executives and one FCC official among its supporters. They say Fox and its senior leaders are not fit to maintain a broadcast license for the station because of a settlement reached with a voting machine company last year concerning election-related misinformation aired on two Fox-owned cable news channels.

The FCC rarely upholds challenges to broadcast license applications or renewals, and a decision to not renew a station’s license because of content aired on cable channels — which the FCC largely doesn’t regulate — would be unprecedented. Still, MAD and its supporters say the FCC should deny Fox’s application because records made public through the defamation case showed Fox executives allowed false narratives to permeate on its cable channels. MAD contends that the evidence proves Fox’s character is tarnished; good character is an element that the FCC weighs in approving broadcast license applications.

This week, attorneys representing Fox restated their position that any matters involving the company’s cable news channels are entirely irrelevant to the issue.

“No matter how many repetitive filings MAD makes, the law governing [WTXF’s] license renewal application will not change,” the lawyers wrote.

DOCUMENT: Read the letter sent by Fox Corporation to the FCC [Pro Access]

The lawyers also pointed to numerous filings made by supporters of the station, including federal and state lawmakers, who say WTXF fulfills its commitment to serving the public good by airing local news and community-oriented programming.

This week, lawmakers with the Southeast Delegation of the Pennsylvania House Democrats filed a letter of their own in support of WTXF, noting that the station aired a segment last year that included an interview with a community organizer in support of the local LGBTQ+ community.

“Fox 29 understands that being an unbiased source of journalism does not excuse it from providing a forum for the underserved, ensuring vital programs for their well-being make the news, and that their voice is heard,” the letter said, which referenced WTXF’s on-air brand.”

The FCC is not required to decide on the matter within a certain time frame. A broadcaster who feels the agency isn’t working fast enough can file a motion in federal court to compel a decision. It wasn’t clear if Fox intends to pursue that avenue if the FCC does not act on the issue soon.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 10 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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