WWOR License Challengers Take Renewed Aim

A group challenging the FCC license of News Corp.'s WWOR-TV Secaucus, N.J., have sent a letter to FCC Media Bureau Chief Bill Lake continuing to challenge staff estimates for the station and News Corp's veracity in claims to the commission responding to their challenge.

The FCC's Media Bureau said in February it was looking into allegations that Fox Television Stations misrepresented the station and lacked candor in its responses. Fox has said that the FCC will ultimately conclude the challenge is unwarranted and without merit.

Various groups challenging Fox's license for the station had complained back in December 2010, following up on complaints earlier in the year.

Those groups argue that Fox did not inform the FCC of various material changes to the stations, as required, including that after "most" of WWOR-TV's operations were relocated to New York City in 2008 and 2009, its staff, news and public affairs programming were all cut, including one of those public affairs shows and the move of its 10 p.m. news to 11 p.m. and cutting it to a half-hour.

In the letter dated Aug. 1, a copy of which was supplied to B&C, Voice for New Jersey (VNJ) (http://www.voicenj.com/VNJAction.html)responded to representations to the committee April 4 by a Fox lawyer. The group said the letter was not only "lacking in candor" itself, but also essentially made VNJ's case for it about past misrepresentations. VNJ points to the April 4 letter, which contains figures for staff and hours of news at WWOR that are different and lower than ones provided in an Aug. 26, 2009 letter, it says.

"In its August 26, 2009 letter, Fox claimed that WWOR-TV then broadcast more than 8.0 hours of news and public affairs programming per week, and that 250 people were then employed at the station's Secaucus headquarters," said VNJ. "In the Response Letter, Fox presents a different set of facts. Fox now represents that WWOR-TV broadcast only 205 minutes (3.42 hours) of news per week when the August 26 letters were sent, and that the station employed only 205 people at that time," says VNJ, adding that it thinks that last figure is still inflated.

VNJ asserts that Fox continues to lay off staffers while painting a rosier picture for the commission. Fox sent the FCC a letter July 11 explaining that WWOR had moved its newscast from 11 p.m. to 10 p.m., said VNJ. "A programming change from late night to prime time would generally be viewed as a favorable development, and it is unsurprising that Fox would want to share this good news with the Commission," the group wrote. But VNJ said Fox failed to mention that the newscast was being cut from 36 minutes to 27.5 minutes, a cut of 23%.  "In choosing to communicate only positive developments, Fox again displays an audacious lack of candor in its communications with the Commission."

Fox says in that July 11 letter it is just providing the FCC with an update on WWOR and that information on the move of the newscast is not material to a review of its actions in the preceding license term.

"We are reviewing the VNJ filing," said a Fox TV Stations spokesperson.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.