The Federal Communications Commission has launched an investigation to determine if Fox made stretched the truth when it applied to renew its license to operate a New Jersey television station in August of 2009.
Fox has 30 days to respond to allegations that it misrepresented the number of hours of public affairs and news programming it provides, the number of people it employs, and exaggerated the amount of programing focused on issues related to Northern New Jersey that it airs.
In a letter Wednesday to Fox Television Stations, FCC Media Bureau Chief William Lake wrote that the organization was investigating “...allegations concerning the accuracy, completeness, and truthfulness of representations...in certain communications with the staff of the Federal Communications Commission.”
Fox denies the charges.
“We look forward to responding to the FCC's inquiry, and we are confident that upon review of all facts and applicable law, the FCC will recognize that these unwarranted claims hold no merit,” a Fox TV Stations spokesperson told TheWrap.
If Fox is found to have lied to the commission, it could lose its license to operate two channels WNYW(TV) in New York City and WWOR-TV in Secaucus, New Jersey. Executives who provided false information could also be subject to jail time or fines.
“Underlying this dispute is whether this station is meeting its legal obligation to serve northern New Jersey,” Andrew Jay Schwartzman, Senior Vice President and Policy Director of Media Access, told TheWrap. “There have been evident discrepancies between Fox’s statements to the commission and the facts.”
Media Access is one of four groups that pushed for the FCC to investigate last winter. The other two groups are the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, the United Church of Christ and Voice for New Jersey.
Among their claims are that Fox told the commission that it had devoted over 850 minutes to local issues, but the groups contend that WWOR carries less than 10 percent of the news broadcast by other channels. Further it claims that Fox failed to amend previous claims that 200 employees were located in its Secaucus office, when in reality that number was closer to 75.
Fox acquired WWOR in 2001. It has received one temporary and one permanent waver to operate the two New York area stations in addition to the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal. The FCC traditionally bans companies in major markets from owning both local newspapers and television stations.