Hudson Reporter Archive

Getting enough local TV?

New Jersey has plenty of reality television, from the Jersey Shore to the Jersey Housewives, but when it comes to live and local news, where can residents find regular, timely and consistent coverage?
Straddled between Philadelphia and New York City, two major media markets, people are left to watch split broadcasts such as Fox’s WWOR-TV news programming. Yet WWOR-TV NJ has come under scrutiny once again by Media Advocacy group Voice for New Jersey (VNJ), which claims in a letter to the FCC that the station has misrepresented staffing and news coverage.

“Fox has twice cut WWOR-TV’s already deficient news and public affairs programming.” – Voice for New Jersey
VNJ writes that, “Fox has twice cut WWOR-TV’s already deficient news and public affairs programming, and has time and again slashed the station’s staffing and operating budget. It has also misrepresented its actions to the Commission.”
VNJ claims that the station only employs 69 people in New Jersey, as indicated by a union that represents employees at WWOR-TV, whereas Fox claimed it employs 173 as of an FCC filing in April. The letter also indicates that Fox has laid off additional staff and that more layoffs are planned.
Fox Vice-President of Media Relations Erica Keane said that Fox is reviewing the VNJ FCC filing.

License under evaluation

The station’s license is up for renewal and under evaluation by the FCC, a process which has been ongoing since 2007. At the time, VNJ first petitioned to deny the license. The FCC will address the licensing issue over the next coming months.
“In the Petition to Deny, Voice for New Jersey made a compelling case that WWOR-TV has not met its public interest obligations. The station’s performance does not merit renewal of its broadcast license; we would like to see the station license awarded to a new owner that would properly serve the public interest,” said Chuck Lovey, VNJ representative. “The FCC has historically been very reluctant to deny renewal of a station license. If, despite our objections, the FCC chooses to renew the WWOR-TV license, it should (at minimum) impose specific conditions to improve the quality and quantity of the station’s news and public affairs programming. We also believe that a renewal for less than an eight year term is appropriate,” he added.
While the FCC does not mandate a specific amount of time for local coverage, stations must allocate time and track area-based programming. According to a press release from the Voice for New Jersey, “More than 20 years ago, the FCC determined that there had been consistent shortcomings in commercial VHF television service with respect to the needs of New Jersey citizens. As such, it imposed special service obligations on all broadcasters covering New Jersey. Further, in 1982, Congress enacted legislation, which effectively required the FCC to reallocate a VHF TV station (specifically WWOR) to New Jersey.”
VNJ asserts that Fox has failed to produce any documents responsive to the FCCs investigation and that Fox has failed to correct its misrepresentations.
VNJ also claims that Fox has misrepresented information presented to the FCC as of letters dating back to August 2009. As of July 11 Fox told the FCC that the evening newscast was rescheduled from 11 p.m. to 10 p.m. but omitted any other details about broader station changes such as cutting the newscast from 36 minutes to 27.5 minutes, according to VNJ.
As of February, the FCC has been looking into the claims made by VNJ.
In a letter to the FCC from September 2009, News Corporation, which owns Fox, referenced a meeting with the commission in which Fox President Dennis Swanson said that the global financial crisis had dramatically hurt the station’s economic fortunes, and that once it ended; WWOR-TV would still have to compete against a whole variety of other media. Given the difficulties, News Corp. made the request that the Commission not impose on the station onerous conditions that no other broadcaster is forced to confront.
Adriana Rambay Fernández may be reached at

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