In something of a blast from the past for those who have followed the peripatetic course of New York Post-related waivers, Fox Television Stations has asked the FCC for a permanent waiver of the newspaper-broadcast crossownership rule for WWOR-TV Secaucus, N.J.
Opponents of the move have already pledged to try to block it.
Fox already has a permanent waiver to own WNYW-TV, dating back to 1993, but only a temporary waiver to own WWOR, which it bought in 2001.
Fox thought the issue was mooted by the FCC's 2018 decision to eliminate the newspaper-broadcast crossownership rule. So did the FCC, which renewed WWOR's license without addressing the merits of its extant waiver request.
But with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit's reinstatement of the crossownership prohibition in September 2019, Fox said the stations are apparently again subject to the "outdated" rule, and so it is asking for a permanent waiver to resolve the issue and the common ownership it argues benefits the New York media market.
Fox points out that the FCC has concluded, given its elimination of the rule in 2018, that it does not serve the public interest.
Actually, FCC chairs from both parties have owned up to the fact that they agreed the rule had outlived its usefulness, but that pressure from Congress to preserve it--not wanting to give local media too much power to make and unmake political careers or campaigns--had factored into their failure to eliminate it.
Fox is likely trying to get the FCC to move while it is still in Republican hands since a Democrat-controlled FCC might be less likely to grant the permanent waiver.
Fox said the FCC would essentially just be extending the permanent waiver it already has for WNYW to the common ownership of WWOR as well, preserving the status quo of common ownership that has been the case "for decades."
"Mr. Murdoch has managed to stretch what was nominally a 'temporary' two year waiver into more than two DECADES of impermissibly operating not one, but two, TV stations while owning the NY Post," said Andrew Schwartzman, senior counselor at the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society.
Free Press, United Church of Christ, and Common Cause are no fans of Fox TV's New York Post waivers and are free to file oppositions to the Fox request if they want to continue the fight.
A spokesperson for Common Cause confirmed it would be joining with Free Press to oppose the permanent waiver for WWOR.
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Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.