The brave new world for WWOR minus a news department began last night with the debut of Chasing New Jersey. As we reported last week, Fox management, without any fanfare, opted out of its regular 10 p.m. newscast. Instead, Channel 9 is airing a show that is being labeled by some as TMZ meets A Current Affair. The nightly show jettisons anchors and reporters in favor of a ringleader and chasers to highlight New Jersey-centric topics. Perhaps the closest element to being “news” worthy is interviews with state politicians.
The dramatic movement by Rupert Murdoch and Fox in the last few days has brought attention squarely upon the FCC. The agency has been in a struggle with WWOR for years. Since Channel 9’s move to the shadows of the Meadowlands in the late 1980s, the station has been under the gun by the FCC. Becoming a New Jersey broadcast outlet forced Channel 9 (then owned by RKO) to cover the Garden State properly.
An FCC spokesperson tells Tuned In that the WWOR issue is before the Commission so it cannot comment. The spokesperson adds that there is no specific timeframe for a decision.
In order to satisfy a license renewal, the FCC will need to determine if local news is getting the short end of the stick at WWOR, whose license expired in 2007.
Matthew Schwartz spent a career at Channel 9. The reporter worked at WWOR (and the original call letters WOR) for 20 years. Even though he’s been out of New York for a decade, Schwartz says the death knell sounded for Channel 9 News when Fox purchased the station in 2000.
“I wasn’t surprised at all. I saw it almost from the get-go,” Schwartz tells Tuned In. “I blame the FCC first, and then I blame Fox second, because they’re equal partners in this. How could [the FCC] let this station, licensed to New Jersey, not even have a newscast? What a joke. It’s a disgrace.”