Timothy Karr: Who’s Afraid of Rupert Murdoch?
Genachowski’s tone echoes that of House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, who has declined to investigate Murdoch in spite of mounting evidence that News Corp. has committed crimes in the U.S.
“This is a story about a unit in another country,” Issa said during an interview on Murdoch’s Fox News Channel. “And we want to make sure we don’t enter the ground that is most inappropriate for us.”
Meanwhile the News Corp. board — a hand-picked circle of the Murdochs’ closest allies — refuses to take action against a chairman a British government committee deemed “not fit to run an international company.”
On Wednesday, the board rubberstamped a vote of confidence in its leader, citing “Rupert Murdoch’s vision and leadership in building News Corporation, his ongoing performance as chairman and CEO and his demonstrated resolve to address the mistakes of the company.”
What Now for Murdoch?
So what’s next? We’re nearly one year into one of the biggest scandals in modern media. It’s a scandal involving widespread criminal behavior and a subsequent cover-up by News Corp.’s most senior executives.
And yet very few of America’s powerful are willing to call this U.S. company forth to respond to the serious allegations or answer for its misdeeds.
True, the Department of Justice is investigating possible breaches of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, but allegations against News Corp. don’t end there:
News reports contend that newspaper staff hacked into the voicemail of American 9/11 victims.
An attorney representing U.K. phone-hacking victims claims that at least four of his clients were illegally spied on while in the U.S.
A company subsidiary, News America Marketing, allegedly hacked into a competitor’s computers to steal away clients and destroy its reputation.
A former company subsidiary, Israel’s NDS Group Ltd., allegedly hired hackers to break the security codes of rival satellite television companies in the U.S. and elsewhere and make them available for use by copyright pirates.
When granting broadcast licenses, the FCC must determine whether applicants meet good character qualifications in accordance with the Communications Act. But the agency has a dismal record on license renewals, and it rarely considers questions of character when vetting applicants.
Over the FCC’s more than 75 years in existence, it has granted well over 100,000 broadcast license renewals while denying only four for failing to meet public interest obligations.
And while viewers regularly petition the agency to deny a broadcaster’s renewal on such grounds, you would have to go back more than 30 years to find the most recent instance in which the FCC responded by pulling a license.
Steve Waldman, the author of the 2011 FCC study on the state of the U.S. media, attributes the dearth of FCC action to commissioners who “no doubt feared denying licenses would trigger contentious battles with broadcasters.”
The FCC’s Genachowski seems no different than his predecessors, thus far avoiding a confrontation with one of the largest holders of TV broadcast spectrum.