In a letter to the head of the FCC, U.S. Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker (D-NJ) called for a change in broadcasting rules that would ensure that Secaucus-based TV station WWOR would provide viewers extensive coverage of happenings in New Jersey.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“We believe that the FCC’s rubber-stamping of WWOR’s license renewal last year portends the end of rigorous review of whether a license has met the public interest standard for TV licensee holders as set forth in the Communications Act,” the senators wrote in a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.
“It is time for the FCC to adopt clear guidelines for how it will judge whether stations are meeting their responsibilities to Americans, especially for stations like WWOR who have particularized responsibilities pursuant to their TV licenses. Citizens in New Jersey must have the confidence that the FCC will make sure these stations are living up to their commitment to their local communities and the public trust placed in them as holders of broadcast TV licenses.”
Back in August, Booker and Menendez called on the FCC to reverse a decision renewing WWOR’s license since they have failed to provide meaningful coverage of The Garden State in years.
The Fox-owned television station shut down its entire New Jersey-based news operation in 2013, forcing layoffs while absorbing some staff at the company’s Fox 5 affiliate, WNYW-TV, in New York City.
The senators believe that the FCC’s revocation of the Main Studio Rule, which required a TV broadcast station to have a main studio located near its local community, was a mistake.
“Less than a year after the FCC eliminated the main studio rule, WWOR sold its Secaucus location for $4 million. Unfortunately, WWOR has not upgraded its newsgathering to provide serious content for New Jerseyans,” they also said in the letter.
“Now you have an opportunity to hold WWOR (and other TV stations) accountable by reinstating the main studio rule. It is clearly not in the public interest for the people of New Jersey to go without meaningful, dedicated local news coverage â€“ a situation that we believe is now made worse by the fact that WWOR has no physical studio in New Jersey.”
The only New Jersey-centric news program currently on WWOR is “Chasing News,” a TMZ-style show that has a half hour time slot every evening during the work week.
Booker and Menendez argue that comparable news stations in Philadelphia and New York City air around 56 hours of weekly news programming.
The duo has made making changes to WWOR a priority for years, most recently co-sponsoring a bill in November that sought to clarify the special obligations news stations have to providing meaningful local coverage – even if they covert to an “ultra-high frequency.”