New Jersey politicians, and in particular the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), have long been irritated about their perception that the programming of WWOR-TV Secaucus NJ is aimed at nearby New York City. Now the station’s decision to drop local news has Sen. Bob Menendez picking up where Lautenberg left off, demanding an inquiry into the station’s long pending license renewal application.
In a letter to Acting FCC Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn, made no bones about the fact that picking up the baton from Lautenberg was exactly what he was doing.
New Jersey suffers from being sandwiched between two of America’s largest media market – New York and Philadelphia – while lacking a significant population of its center capable of supporting a full slate of local broadcast television stations.
The station is ultimately owned by News Corporation through Fox Television.. An MNT affiliate, it operates alongside Fox O&O WNYW. Complicating the local ownership regulatory scenario is News Corporation’s ownership of the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post.
Here is the Menendez letter to Clyburn in full.
Dear Acting Chairwoman Clyburn:
I am writing to request a prompt and thorough review of News Corporation’s application to renew the license for WWOR, which has been pending before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) since 2007. I further request that the FCC conclude its ongoing investigation concerning misrepresentations by WWOR included in their license renewal proceedings. In light of WWOR’s decision to drop their nightly news programming, a decision which affects millions of New Jerseyans, it is becoming increasingly critical that the FCC make a determination about WWOR’s license and whether they are adequately serving New Jersey as the law and FCC rules stipulate. From my perspective, News Corporation is not.
As you are by this point well aware, WWOR is a unique station with unique requirements placed upon the license holder. Carrying out a law passed in 1982, the FCC stipulated that any license holder for WWOR “devote itself to meeting the special needs of its new community (and the needs of the Northern New Jersey area in general).” New Jersey is one of the most densely populated states in the country, but because of its location between New York City and Philadelphia, does not have a designated market area (DMA). WWOR is required to fill this gap by operating in New Jersey for the benefit of the people in New Jersey. Unfortunately, it appears telling that, rather than add much-needed New Jersey specific programming to their lineup, WWOR instead chooses to supplant its nightly news segment with a show referred to in news reports as “like TMZ.”
In recent years, as concerns grew about whether WWOR was living up to its requirement to serve New Jersey, my former colleague Senator Frank Lautenberg led a courageous campaign to ensure the station would again focus on New Jersey issues. He showed that at one point WWOR went by My9NY, he fought against News Corporation’s attempt to move WWOR news operations to New York, and he highlighted studies that revealed WWOR actually provided less coverage of New Jersey politics than New York-based television stations.
It is my hope and will be my mission to see that Senator Lautenberg’s longstanding and well founded concerns are not forgotten. New Jersey residents deserve nothing less than a fair, robust, and timely review of News Corporation’s application to renew the license for WWOR and a conclusion into the ongoing investigation about misrepresentations in the renewal proceedings.
Thank you for your consideration, I look forward to your prompt response and to working with you on this issue to ensure the law and regulations protecting my constituents are not ignored.