Is Channel 9 Sufficiently Covering New Jersey?
On November 28, Senator Lautenberg testified at a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) public hearing that WWOR-TV Channel 9 in New Jersey has not fulfilled its obligation to provide New Jersey with suitable coverage.
“WWOR's license depends on how well it meets its obligations to New Jersey. It’s renewal time and the evidence is clear: WWOR has failed in its responsibility to serve the people of New Jersey,” said Sen. Lautenberg, a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee – the panel that has jurisdiction over telecommunications issues. “If it renews the license, the FCC needs to get tough and include specific, measurable steps to ensure coverage of our state.”
The public forum examined the license renewal for WWOR-TV Channel 9, the only high-power commercial television station licensed in New Jersey. Fox Television Stations Inc. owns WWOR-TV and filed an application seeking renewal of its license on February 1. Petitions to deny that application were filed by Voice for New Jersey and by the Office of Communication of United Church of Christ, Inc. and the Rainbow/Push Coalition.
Sen. Lautenberg raised concerns about WWOR with FCC Chairman Kevin Martin in February and secured this hearing from Chairman Martin this summer when the two met. Although the FCC has not held a public hearing on a broadcast license renewal in recent memory, Chairman Martin agreed to hold this hearing because of WWOR-TV’s unique obligations to serve New Jersey.
Before 1983, there was no high-power commercial television station in New Jersey. The 1983 FCC order moving WWOR-TV from New York City to New Jersey specified that “this station will not be a New Jersey station in name only. It will serve the people of New Jersey.” It further specified that WWOR-TV would be judged at license renewal time by how well it served New Jersey.
Sen. Lautenberg believes WWOR-TV has failed to meet its service obligations to New Jersey viewers. The FCC has not reached a determination on these claims and held the public forum in New Jersey so the public and other interested parties could express their views and concerns about the TV station’s lack of coverage. The FCC will determine after the public forum whether WWOR-TV’s license should be renewed.
“New Jersey deserves its own television station – and Channel 9 is supposed to be it. But time and again, this station has failed to provide adequate coverage of issues important to our families and our local communities. It’s time for the FCC to step in and make sure New Jersey gets the coverage it needs,” Sen. Lautenberg said.