Sen. Menendez Urges Swift Action on WWOR-TV Operating License

Sen. Menendez Urges Swift Action on WWOR-TV Operating License

NEWARK, NJ - U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) today sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman (FCC) Thomas Wheeler imploring the FCC to ensure WWOR-TV (My 9) in Secaucus is abiding by its federally-mandated obligation to serve the residents of New Jersey before approving the station's operating license renewal. WWOR's license renewal has raised significant concern from constituents and communities across the state that the station has failed in its duty to operate for the benefit of New Jersey.

"Despite multiple efforts to highlight the need for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to enforce the special obligations placed on WWOR's operating license, to date there appears to be little if any action," Sen. Menendez wrote.

Acting on a 1982 law, 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)." The late-U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) previously led the effort to force WWOR to live by the requirements imposed on its license, and New Jersey community groups and media observers filed a complaint stating that WWOR's performance was "clearly inadequate to meet its public interest obligations." The FCC has also launched an investigation into alleged misrepresentations made by WWOR for many years.

"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)," the Senator continued. "WWOR is required to fill this gap by operating in the state of New Jersey to the benefit of all residents. Unfortunately, concerns have mounted that the operations of WWOR have not fulfilled these requirements."

Last July, the Fox-owned television station shut down its entire New Jersey-based news operation. Employees were either given pink slips or absorbed by the company's Fox 5 affiliate WNYW-TV in New York City. WWOR subsequently replaced its local broadcast newscast with a show produced by an outside company called "Chasing New Jersey."

"New Jersey residents deserve a fair, robust and timely effort by the FCC to determine whether its own rules and congressional intent are being followed by WWOR," Sen. Menendez concluded.

Full text of the Senator's letter can be downloaded here and follows:

March 21, 2014
The Honorable Thomas Wheeler
Chairman
Federal Communications Commission
442 12th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20554

Dear Chairman Wheeler:

I am writing to follow up on the request that I made at our meeting on July 16, 2013 regarding the review of several issues specific to WWOR's relicensing renewal. Despite multiple efforts to highlight the need for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to enforce the special obligations placed on WWOR's operating license, to date there appears to be little if any action and no response or update. I look forward to either meeting with you personally or gaining the insight of the FCC soon in order to determine whether rules protecting the needs of my constituents are being properly enforced.

WWOR is a unique station with special 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 the state of New Jersey to the benefit of all residents. Unfortunately, concerns have mounted that the operations of WWOR have not fulfilled these requirements.

As we discussed during our meeting, WWOR has had a license renewal pending since 2007. There has been a challenge to their license pending and an FCC investigation into alleged misrepresentations made by WWOR for many years. I asked at our meeting whether you would commit to me that within 90 days of your confirmation you would review these issues and come back to me with an action plan on how the FCC plans to address them moving forward. You agreed at the time that, if confirmed, you would fulfill your commitment. I also asked whether obligations imposed on WWOR's license require at least one half hour of nightly news devoted to New Jersey issues. I have not heard either an update on these issues or an answer to these questions.

New Jersey residents deserve a fair, robust and timely effort by the FCC to determine whether its own rules and congressional intent are being followed by WWOR. I hope that, as we work through the appropriations process for the next fiscal year, the FCC will work in good faith on this issue as has been promised.

Thank you for your consideration, I look forward to your prompt response and to continue working with you on this issue to ensure the law and regulations protecting my constituents are not ignored.

Sincerely,

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