Regulators have opened the door for public input on whether Fox Corp.’s television station in Philadelphia should have its US broadcast license renewed. This inquiry comes in response to a request from a grassroots organization that insists the renewal should be denied due to accusations that Fox knowingly spread false information about the 2020 election.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a statement emphasizing the importance of widespread public involvement in this evaluation, as it aligns with the overall benefit to the public.
A non-partisan nonprofit group called the Media and Democracy Project has been at the forefront of this effort. In July, they urged the FCC to decline the renewal application for WTXF-TV, the Fox station in question. Notably, the next opportunity for another Fox station to seek license renewal won’t come until 2028, as per Fox’s renewal schedule.
The Media and Democracy Project drew some of its arguments from Dominion Voting Systems Inc.’s defamation lawsuit, which originated from Fox’s dissemination of false claims surrounding the 2020 presidential election. The group’s assertion is that WTXF and Fox, through deliberate distortion of election-related news, have done a disservice to the public. In their view, this disqualification renders Fox ineligible to hold a broadcast license.
Fox responded to these claims on August 2nd by clarifying that the lawsuit pertains to the Fox cable network rather than WTXF. They underscored that the matter is essentially a separate civil issue. Fox emphasized that the First Amendment safeguards the freedom of speech and prevents governmental interference in broadcast content.
A representative from Fox brushed aside the petition as “frivolous and entirely baseless.”
Adding to the discourse, Preston Padden, a former executive at Fox who supports the challenge against the network, expressed strong approval of the FCC’s actions, considering it a favorable decision.
The Media and Democracy Project believes that a formal hearing could lead to the rejection of WTXF’s renewal application. If successful, this outcome could potentially set a precedent that affects other Fox stations, as noted by the organization.
For context, Fox possesses and operates 29 broadcast television stations across 18 local markets in the United States, which notably includes 14 out of the 15 largest markets.