Documents: Asian-American group tried to block FOX acquisition of KTVU

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An Asian-American public affairs group attempted to block FOX Television Station’s purchase of two San Francisco-area television stations in 2014, according to newly-unearthed documents reviewed by The Desk.

In a brief filed two years ago with the Federal Communications Commission, the head of the Sacramento-based Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs (APAPA) wrote that the government should not permit the sale of KTVU-TV (Channel 2) and KICU-TV (Channel 36) because the station had “a history of making racist comments.”

Specifically, the group called out KTVU for a gaffe in which a news anchor mistakenly reported four fake names as belonging to crew members aboard an Asiana Airlines passenger jet that crashed at San Francisco International Airport in June 2013. In its report, KTVU claimed the identities of those aboard the plane were “Sum Ting Wong,” “Wi Tu Lo,” “Ho Lee Fuk” and “Bang Ding Ow.” The actual identities of the crew had been correctly reported earlier in the week by the Associated Press.

The station’s error, which was first noted by The Desk, was corrected in later broadcasts. KTVU also posted a statement online apologizing for the gaffe. Three staff members were fired over the incident, and a fourth later resigned. Station officials met with a number of community groups in the weeks that followed in an attempt to make amends for the mistake. Management at KTVU also attempted to have footage of the news broadcast removed from YouTube.

The incident was the only one specifically cited by the public affairs group in the 11-page document filed with the FCC. Other incidents noted in their brief dealt mainly with controversies involving the FOX News Channel. FOX Television Stations, which operates some local FOX network stations, and the FOX News Channel are subsidiaries of the FOX Entertainment Group, which is owned by 21st Century FOX.

In mid-2014, FOX announced it had reached a deal with Cox Communications for KTVU, KICU and a repeater station in a nearby market. The deal was part of a swap that saw Cox acquiring FOX-operated stations in Boston and Memphis. The filing by the public affairs group came during a public comment period in which the FCC solicited opinions from citizens and groups about the impending deal.

“If assigned to FOX TV and FOX Group, the three stations in question would be subject to the same lax protocols and sanction of hatred as demonstrated by FOX News,” APAPA wrote. “The unscrupulous greed for higher ratings would drive the three stations to adopt extreme and outrageous TV personalities and languages. As FOX News has been oblivious to the public outcry, so will the three stations be indifferent to the Bay Area’s unique and diverse culture.”

The group said the Bay Area “owes much of its success to immigrant engineers who are law-abiding citizens. Instilling fear int he hearts of these contributing members of society…not only threatens the local economy, but also causes American citizens to be unnecessarily questioned for their loyalty.”

In a response, lawyers for FOX said the public affairs group had raised issues that fell outside the control of the FCC. “Programming decisions, like matters of taste, are not within the (FCC’s) jurisdictional purview,” the lawyers wrote.

The FCC agreed it was not responsible for reviewing the “news judgments” of broadcasters and that the examples involving the cable news channel had nothing to do with the proposed acquisition of the stations. In a letter dated October 1, the agency said the Asiana Airlines gaffe cited by APAPA was an insufficient example because KTVU had taken “immediate corrective action including staff dismissals in response to the incident.”

FOX formally acquired KTVU, KICU and the repeater station on October 8.