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FCC investigating Fox over its operation of WWOR-TV

The Federal Communications Commission is investigating News Corp.'s Fox to determine if the company misled the regulatory agency with regards to the operations of its television station WWOR-TV in Seacaucus, N.J.

In a letter sent to Fox on Thursday, the FCC said it needs to determine if Fox and WWOR intentionally provided "material factual information that was incorrect" or is guilty of "intentionally omitting material information."

At issue is the staffing level and amount of local programming WWOR-TV carries. Fox has been criticized by media watchdogs and even Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) for not providing ample coverage of New Jersey on the station. Although WWOR-TV is known primarily as an outlet serving New York, it is technically based in New Jersey. Fox also owns WNYW-TV New York and has consolidated much of the operations of the two stations. Fox acquired WWOR in 2001.

Voice for New Jersey is an advocacy group that has been extremely critical of WWOR and has filed complaints about how Fox is running the station. On its website, Voice for New Jersey charges that WWOR now carries "less than 10% of the broadcast time" that other stations in the market devote to news. Fox, Voice for New Jersey said, has "grossly misrepresented" to the FCC the amount of news and public affairs programming that is on WWOR-TV.

Fox is also accused of not being forthcoming about the number of people who actually work at WWOR's New Jersey facility.

A Fox spokeswoman said the company will respond to the FCC's request and is “confident that upon review of all facts and applicable law, the FCC will recognize that these unwarranted claims hold no merit.”

If Fox is found to have intentionally misled the agency, there could be dire consequences including fines or even jail for whoever deceived the FCC and the loss of the station's license.

-- Joe Flint

 
Comments () | Archives (17)

Can't ya just change the channel or, um... GET CABLE?!?!

Broadcast licensees are required to serve the public interest and their markets with a certain amount of news programming. It's not about changing the channel.

Mr. Flint wrote:

"Although WWOR-TV is known primarily as an outlet serving New York, it is technically based in New Jersey."

Not quite true. The license for Channel 9 was transferred to Secaucus in the 1980s specifically to obligate the owners to provide news and other types of coverage for northern New Jersey. It is known as a "New York" station because the current owners have been derelict in their responsibilities and obligations.

According to a news release from Sen. Frank Lautenberg,

"Before 1983, there was no high-power commercial television station in New Jersey. The 1983 FCC order moving WWOR-TV from New York City to New Jersey specified that “this station will not be a New Jersey station in name only. It will serve the people of New Jersey.” It further specified that WWOR-TV would be judged at license renewal time by how well it served New Jersey."

http://lautenberg.senate.gov/documents/domestic/WWOR/index.cfm

Thanks for the note Harold,but I don't think we are in disagreement. The station is licensed to New Jersey but is perceived as a New York station and indeed was licensed to New York and was only moved to NJ as a last ditch effort by RKO to hold onto the station when it ran afoul of the FCC.

Joe Flint

Obviously a hit job by a conservative hating, liberal front group. These hypocritical so called "progressives", & liberals are always trying to restrict the free speech of anyone and/or any group that expresses a different viewpoint than their own bigoted & hateful view.

To clarify an earlier point, broadcast licensees are not required to provide any amount of news programming. They are required to serve the "public interest," but how they do that is up to their reasonable discretion, and news is not required. Indeed, in past FCC decisions the FCC has said that news programming does not generally qualify as issue oriented programming that is considered to address the local issues of interest to a station's community (actually pretty understandable when one considers the content of local news - local crime, accident and fire report, rip and read headlines, weather and sports).

Stations are required, on a quarterly basis, to place in their public files (open to inspection by anyone) a list of the programming that they provided during the previous three months that is responsive to issues facing the local community, including a brief description of the program, when it aired, and the local issues it addressed. The problem is that no station has lost its license due to a lack of "public interest" programming, and some stations do almost none of it.

If it turns out that Fox did mislead the FCC by providing inaccurate information, and failing to timely correct the misleading information,, the likely result will be a fine. Even if the FCC were to find that there was an intentional effort to mislead (my guess is that's a very unlikely finding given the circumstances), the result would be a fine rather than a loss of the station license (though perhaps the license might get renewed for a shorter period than the standard eight years). As for jail time for those involved? Never. Hasn't happened in the past and it's not about to happen in this situation.

For those wanting to see what the FCC actually said they can find the FCC's letter to Fox on its website: http://www.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2011/db0217/DA-11-314A1.pdf

Wasn't channel 13 licensed to Newark prior to becoming a public station?

CNN and others wipe their brows, thank Fox for standing in the line of fire, and continue their "factual" yet "edited" reporting.

Fox, with its motto of 'fair & balanced' mislead? Wahahahaha....

"Voice for New Jersey is an advocacy group [...]"

Looking at their site it seems (1) they're ticked off that more people don't pay attention to the state that spawned 'Jersey Shore', (2) they don't like Fox, and (3) they're affiliated with a bunch of other 'advocacy groups' that don't like Fox.

witch hunt

Joe is correct in that WWOR-TV has carefully cultivated the image
of a New York City television station even after it was forced to move
its facilities to Secaucus, New Jersey in the early 1980s. The station
owner at that time was RKO General and the company was faced with
loss of their New York license because of problems at its Boston
station. Then-senator Bill Bradley jumped to their aid by attaching
a measure to a financial bill that enabled RKO keep the license if they
would move to New Jersey.

Sadly, Bradley never concerned himself with the continuing failure
of WWOR-TV to live up to its required commitment to New Jersey
viewers. The former senator was a beneficiary of campaign
contributions from entertainment industry sources and, I suppose
was disinterested in doing right by the constituents of his adopted
home state. Hopefully, this most recent interest by the FCC will
turn the heat up on that station to detach itself from New York
City once and for all.

P.S. From what I gather, Bradley no longer lives in New Jersey.

Awe! It looks like the Repubs are trying to help themselves to a ruleing that would help them in the next Presidential election. They are so affraid that the Dems will own the office again,and then they can't raid the economy of the nation. And also can't get another war started,with some tenth world country. These Natzi goons would like to feed every military provider in the United States,with as much money as they can so that the kickbacks will be greater.Do they ever stop? No

This sounds like nothing more than a another sneaky, underhanded way for the far left liberal democrats to
shut off the truth and factual news from concerned
citizens. The left has been getting away with this
kind of 'murder' (lies) since the 1930's and it's about
time the courts put an end to it. The left has been over-stepping its authority under the guise of the FCC for as
long as this 67 year old can remember, and I, for one, am
quite sick of them and their lies.

The FCC must be careful to avoid violating the First Amendment rights of the station. We don't want the "fox" guarding the henhouse.

Are you people retarded? This isn't about the far left or far right or politics at all. This is about a television station, which was given a license to broadcast its programming over public airwaves in NJ, and is failing to uphold their end of the bargain- providing local programming, whether that be news or something else.

That would be kind of weird, WNYW, the flagship station of the Fox network, going from being an O&O to just an affiliate owned by another company, that is, assuming NewsCorp would be willing to allow the station to keep the affiliation rather than yank it out of "sour grapes." As for the obligation to serve New Jersey, why should what RKO did in the 60s and 70s have had an effect on MCA, Chris-Craft, and Fox? RKO was the company that screwed up back then, why should the later owners have to inherit the obligation they were given upon moving Channel 9 to NJ? If they're under obligation to pay attention to New Jersey, then WNET should be, too. 13 may have studios in New York, but they're still licensed to Newark, and they shouldn't be getting away with what they're getting away with. If Fox should be punished for anything, it's the whole Cablevision dispute from last fall, nothing more.


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