Guild alleging violation of FCC rules

The Writers Guild of America East has blasted News Corp. over its recent closure of New Jersey-based WWOR-TV’s news division, alleging the conglom is violating Federal Communications Commission rules.

Seven news writers, all WGA East members, were dismissed July 3 as a result of the closure.

News Corp. did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The WGA made the announcement three days after U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) called upon the FCC to “expeditiously” review the company’s application to renew the station’s broadcast license. The guild also said the FCC should continue its investigation into whether WWOR made misrepresentations related to that application.

“We agree that WWOR is not serving the interests of the people of New Jersey as required by FCC rules,” said WGA East  exec director Lowell Peterson. “The people of New Jersey deserve a television station that will honor its responsibility to provide thoughtful, professional coverage of the issues facing the state. WWOR should add news programming, not chase it off the airwaves.”

The station recently canceled its 10 p.m. half-hour of news and replaced it with a newsmagazine called “Chasing New Jersey.” The station is the only substantial commercially owned broadcaster in New Jersey.

The WGA said the news writers were all long-time employees who were called into a meeting July 3, told they were out of a job and that they should collect their things and leave.

“The boxes they packed were searched before they left,” the guild said. “Because their Guild contract requires two weeks’ notice before a layoff, those members will continue to receive their salaries until the middle of the month as well as one week of severance pay for each year they worked, cushioning the blow but not the injustice.”

The WGA East also said News Corp. has “long underplayed” the legal requirement that it provide local news coverage as a legal condition of its holding the license to operate in the state.

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