Written by Michelle May
The UCC and the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition filed a petition on May 1 with the Federal Communications Commission asking it to deny license renewals for two Fox-owned TV stations in New York because the stations' owner, Rupert Murdoch, also owns The New York Post.
The FCC's cross-ownership rule expressly prohibits newspapers and TV stations from being owned by the same entity.
The UCC's Office of Communication, Inc. – known as "OC, Inc." – and Rainbow/PUSH are asking the FCC to rescind temporary waivers granted to Fox "and to deny renewal outright" to WWOR-TV and WNYW-TV.
"If the FCC rescinds Fox's waiver, as UCC and Rainbow/PUSH Coalition seek, renewal of the licenses for WWOR-TV and WNYW would violate the plain language of the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rule and the applications would be defective," reads the filing's summary.
Cheryl Leanza, an attorney who is managing director for the UCC's OC, Inc., says the FCC should enforce existing rules meant to counter excessive media consolidation.
"The increasing concentration of media ownership is an issue that affects many local communities," Leanza says. "Whoever owns and controls local media outlets controls which issues and stories get covered in the news and, moreover, controls how those stories get told."
The UCC's petition includes declarations from a variety of UCC members and pastors from New York and New Jersey who say they are harmed by increasing centralization of news-gathering operations.
The Rev. Sherry M. Taylor, the UCC's Central Atlantic Conference's Association Minister in New Jersey, is one of the petitioners.
"Fox's common ownership of The New York Post, WNYW-TV and WWOR-TV harms me by sharply reducing the number of independent voices available to me," Taylor writes. "Unless the licenses are denied, my right to access diverse programming will continue to be harmed."
Says Leanza, "The fewer independent media owners there are, the less diversity of information and viewpoints available to local communities."
The UCC has long advocated for persons historically excluded from the media, especially women, children and people of color. In a 1964 landmark case against WLBT-TV in Jackson, Miss., the UCC helped to establish the legal precedent that television stations, because of operating on public- owned airwaves, must serve the needs of their communities of license.
Earlier this year, a UCC-filed license challenge against Univision resulted in a record-setting FCC fine of $24 million against the Spanish-language network for its failure to comply with children's educational programming guidelines.