Does News Corporation’s (NASDAQ: NWS) woes in Great Britain warrant government intervention here in the United States, and if so, how would such an action impact African American consumers and investors?
Since News Corp. is registered in the state of Delaware and headquartered in New York, the U.S. government would have jurisdiction over News Corp, but should the government pursue investigative hearings in the Congress or take legal action in the courts? A number of U.S. senators have been calling for investigations. Senator John Rockefeller, Democrat of West Virginia, has expressed concern that News Corp.’s alleged hacking of e-mails and voicemails in London may have extended to victims of the September 2001 attacks and other Americans.
Senator Frank Lautenberg, Democrat of New Jersey, recently stated that News Corp. may have violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act if its reporters paid London police officers to obtain information about the royal family.
Along with Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California, Mr. Lautenberg has reportedly asked the Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate News Corp. Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski has reportedly stated that his agency would not be looking into the matter.
The investment community has reacted negatively overall to the hacking scandal. News Corp.’s stock has fallen from a high of $18.50 on 5 July 2011 to closing at $15.17 on 5 August 2011.
News Corp.’s woes have not gone unnoticed by advocacy groups like Color of Change. The group, concerned with what it describes as News Corp.‘s penchant for race-baiting via one of its media outlets, FOX News, announced last month that it was joining congressional calls for investigations of the media giant.
“Rupert Murdoch will do anything for a profit, from dividing Americans through race-baiting on FOX News to phone-hacking in order to get viewers and sell newspapers,” said Rashad Robinson, Executive Director of Color of Change. “We are standing up to say that we will no longer allow our communities to be attacked by a man more interested in profits than American values.”
Not all advocates wholeheartedly share Color of Change’s view of News Corp. In the 1990s, David Honig (who is now the President of the Minority Media and Telecom Council) was the nation’s top critic of News Corp. As a leading FCC litigator, he represented the New York NAACP in a partly successful challenge to News Corp.’s FCC licenses.
The challenge resulted in a draw: in a 1995 ruling highly critical of News Corp., the FCC found that the company had violated the FCC’s limitations on foreign ownership, but the FCC nonetheless gave the company a permanent waiver that allowed it to keep its valuable owned-and-operated television stations. Ultimately the case was settled, with News Corp. agreeing to several commitments to help minorities enter the television business as executives, producers and writers.
Today Honig remains highly critical of Fox News’ programming. But in an exclusive interview with Politic365, Honig reported that “to be fair, News Corp. has fully complied with the FCC’s 1995 foreign ownership ruling. And I was pleasantly surprised that News Corp. has gone far beyond the minimal requirements of the FCC’s EEO rule, and even well beyond the requirements of the 1995 Settlement, and developed one of the strongest EEO, minority outreach, training and mentoring programs in the television business. It is a model of innovation and aggressiveness in a business that has resisted diversity for generations.”
What’s interesting, Honig points out, is that “News Corp., irrespective of its owners’ opposition to mandated diversity programs, in fact operates one of the best diversity programs in the industry and does so voluntarily. Who knew?”