Citing what he called more than a decade of declining commitment to New Jersey, a congressman who is running for U.S. Senate called Monday for the state’s only commercial television station to have its license revoked because it abruptly canceled its nightly newscast last week.
The cancellation of WWOR’s 10 p.m. newscast was the latest blow for television news coverage of New Jersey, where residents traditionally have had little choice but to rely on scattershot reports from stations based in New York City and Philadelphia.
It comes two years after the state-run public station, NJN, was shut down and its license transferred to New York-based WNET, and 30 years after the politically arranged deal that brought WWOR across the Hudson River with promises of increased Garden State coverage.
“Now WWOR has pulled the plug on the only newscast the station had left,” Rep. Frank Pallone said in a letter Monday to Mignon Clyburn, the acting chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission. “This action deserves immediate enforcement by your agency.”
Pallone, a Monmouth County Democrat, is vying in a special primary for the nomination to succeed Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who died in office last month. He said he believed “the current license should be revoked until you can place additional conditions on the station to ensure that WWOR is both based in New Jersey and provides local news coverage to the state.”
A 1983 law sponsored by Sen. Bill Bradley, D-N.J., granted automatic license renewal to any station that moved to a state without a commercial broadcaster, a description that fit only New Jersey and Delaware.
WOR, as the station was known at the time, was airing newscasts at noon and 10 p.m. and employed 230 people in 1986 when it moved from New York City into a $25 million headquarters in a former racquet club in Secaucus. But in a state that had long lived in the shadows of New York and Philadelphia, politicians continued to worry.
Gov. Thomas H. Kean demanded in 1986, after the station was sold, that its new owner renew the commitment to the state. Verbal assurances were given, but Kean’s attorney general complained they should have been made in writing.
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