Groups press for Senate hearings on News Corp. scandal

Consumer groups and watchdogs are pressing Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) to hold hearings into potential violations of privacy laws by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

CREDO Action, the West Virginia Citizen Action Group, and Public Citizen sent letters to Rockefeller and House Commerce Committee chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) asking for hearings into the News Corp. phone hacking scandal, which has been the subject of a long-running investigation in the United Kingdom.

Consumer advocacy group Free Press sent Rockefeller a similar letter, along with a petition signed by 70,000 people calling for hearings on News Corp.’s businesses practices.

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"It is Congress’ responsibility to investigate corruption and cover-ups of this scale, especially with regard to a company that has been granted numerous licenses to use the public airwaves," Free Press CEO Craig Aaron wrote in the letter.

News Corp. employees are accused of using tactics ranging from illegal tapping of phones to outright bribery in the pursuit of news stories. 

Rockefeller has taken an interest in the News Corp. case. He sent a letter last week to Lord Justice Brian Leveson, the House of Lords member leading the investigation in the U.K., asking whether "any of the evidence you are reviewing … suggests unethical … and sometimes illegal business practices occurred in the United States or involved U.S. citizens."

Rockefeller said he’s concerned that some of the undisclosed victims identified by the U.K. investigation were U.S. citizens.

The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) called for Rockefeller to investigate the matter last week and pressed Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski to revoke the 27 Fox broadcast licenses News Corp. holds in the United States. The group argued Murdoch no longer meets the character requirements the Communications Act sets for broadcast licensees.

CREW executive director Melanie Sloan was blunt about the allegations against News Corp., calling the company's actions a "pattern of outrageous and illegal conduct, including bribery, wire fraud, computer and phone hacking.”

“If the FCC won’t act to revoke Fox’s broadcast licenses, Congress should immediately hold hearings," she said. "Retaining U.S. broadcast licenses is a privilege, not a right.”