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FCC Denies Move of Two Stations to NJ, DE

The FCC won't be moving stations across the country to provide more local TV to New Jersey or Delaware.

The FCC has voted to uphold a 2009 Media Bureau decision denying the move of TV station channel licenses from Wyoming and Nevada to New Jersey and Delaware, which at the time of the initial request had no VHF stations.

When PMCM TV, owner of KJWY TV Jackson (Wyo.), and KVNV TV Ely (Nev.), filed for the move, New Jersey and Delaware were the only states without a VHF station. That was after WOR-TV Secaucus went digital and moved to a UHF channel.

The stations asked to be "reallocated" across the country, but the FCC concluded that "reallocation" meant moving stations from one community to another because they were interfering with a nearby station on the same channel.

Although the FCC has a statutory mandate to try and make sure there is at least one VHF in every state, including moving stations willing to relocate, that was back when a VHF station had superior transmission characteristics to a UHF, something that has been reversed in the digital age.

"WWOR-TV continues to operate a full-power commercial station in New Jersey on a frequency it presumably deems to be equivalent or technically superior to the VHF channel it used until the end of the digital transition," said the FCC, suggesting that fulfilled the spirit of the mandate, but also pointing out it had since moved to fulfill the letter of the mandate as well.  

The FCC pointed out in the decision that, in addition, it has since allocated VHFs to the two states. In fact, it pointed out that the same day the Media Bureau issued its 2009 decision, it also issued notices proposing to allocate channel 4 to Atlantic City and channel 5 to Seaford, Del.

"Although we agree with the Bureau that the comparative technical advantages of VHF spectrum over UHF spectrum which led Congress to enact Section 331(a) no longer exist in the current digital environment, the Commission has now allotted new commercial VHF channels to New Jersey and Delaware," the FCC said. "This result became technically feasible after WWOR-TV and other stations in the region vacated their analog VHF channels in favor of digital UHF channels.  PMCM could have sought a license to operate on one or both of those new channels, as did other licensees, but it chose not to do so."

FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, a local news and info advocate who has been keenly interested in the criticisms of WWOR for what its critics allege is not providing sufficient local news and info to New Jersey,  said it was the right legal decision, but added that the underlying policy issues had yet to be fully addressed at the commission. "My hope is that in the near future we will take meaningful steps to address the concerns of the residents of New Jersey and Delaware, which should be, of course, the concerns of us all."

Groups challenging WWOR's license took renewed aim at the station last month.