The Federal Communications Commission, in a closed session this Thursday, will reconsider its issuance of a Michigan television station license to Panax Corp. because Panax President John P. McGoff is under investigation by the Justice Department.
FCC staffers on May 31 had approved the Panax Corp. application for a license to operate WGTU-TV in Traverse City, Mich.
But on June 29, a newspaper story raising questions about that approval in light of a Justice Department probe into McGoff's financial relationship with South Africa moved several FCC commissioners to seek a review of the matter.
The FCC staff had clear authority to approve the license on its own, and staffers have since said that even if they had known of the Justice Department investigation, they probably would have approved the application.
"It is our general policy not to do anything about ongoing investigations," said Broadcast Division chief Dick Shiben. "We have a premise in this country that you are innocent until proven guilty."
Shiben said the Renewal and Transfer Division, which approved the application and which Shiben headed at the time of that approval, will sometimes condition its approval, of a license pending a court action, but does not do so as a rule.
"The applicant is taking a risk when we do grant a license that if something does develop, we might change our mind," Shiben said. "We can take away what we giveth."
McGoff is under investigation over reports that the South African government secretly funnelled to him an estimated $11 million for a unsuccessful bid to purchase the Wasington Star. McGoff has denied the allegations.
After news accounts of that alleged deal, the Jjustice Department began a widespread investigation into South African activities in the U. S., including the McGoff Charges.
Last week Andrew Schwartzman, executive director of the Media Access Project, a consumer law firm, also called on the FCC to reopen its investigation.