A Philadelphia Fox TV broadcast station won’t have its license renewed if a media advocacy group has its way. The Media and Democracy Project (MAD) petitioned the Federal Communications Commission to deny the renewal application for WTXF-TV, the only Fox-owned TV station currently up for renewal, according to a report from Ars Technica. MAD said the station’s license shouldn’t be renewed on the grounds of airing false information.
Denying a station’s license renewal based on content is out of the ordinary for the FCC, which typically only denies a TV station’s license renewal if the station owner is convicted of a crime or doesn’t file the appropriate application in time. The organization also granted MAD’s request for more public input on the issues the petition raised.
“Given the level of interest and the number of related filings, we opted to place this license renewal in its own docket,” an FCC spokesperson confirmed to Cord Cutters News. “That way and for the sake of transparency, now everyone can read the filings and review the record as it develops.”
License renewals are generally classified, but the media bureau could modify procedures if there’s enough public interest. The license renewal is now on permit-but-release status, otherwise the proceeding would’ve been restricted and limited widespread participation.
“The Media and Democracy Project petition to deny the license renewal of WTXF-TV is frivolous, completely without merit and asks the FCC to upend the First Amendment and long-standing FCC precedent,” A Fox television stations spokesperson said in a statement.
In the petition, MAD argued that Fox distorted news around the 2020 election thereby violating the FCC’s policy on character required of broadcast licenses and asked for an evidentiary hearing. Fox said the FCC shouldn’t make any procedural changes around policy debates.
“Fox’s intentional news distortion, sanctioned at the highest levels of its corporate structure and fabricated by management and news hosts, amounts to misconduct that violates the FCC’s policy on the character required of broadcast licensees, and was so egregious as to shock the conscience,” the petition added asking for “an evidentiary hearing into FOX’s misdeeds.”
MAD said it was excited that its effort was gaining momentum and pleased with the FCC’s response.
“We agree that broadening participation in this process is in the public’s interest,” MAD said in a statement. “It’s essential that regular American’s can have their voices heard, even in an era of dangerous media consolidation. More Americans need to realize – both Republicans and Democrats – who owns and controls what we see and why – especially when our democracy is under attack. We look forward to folks joining our fight.”
The FCC asking for public comment is fairly normal on any vote that gets a lot of public attention.