The future viability of TV stations hinges on their coverage of local news. That makes Fox Television Stations' alleged filing of fraudulent FCC documents for New York's WWOR-TV a head-scratcher.
One public interest group says viewers in New Jersey, where WWOR is based, are getting stiffed -- that the station offers 10% less news programming than others in the market, with a smaller percentage of that news devoted to New Jersey coverage, and also that Fox has fewer people operating the station than reported to the FCC. Fox also owns New York's WNYW-TV, and has made some consolidation moves over the years.
We can only imagine that TV groups owning or operating two TV stations in a market have pushed for big efficiencies over the years -- such as budget cuts in news programming, personnel and other resources.
This was the concern when bigger market stations started taking on management agreements to run smaller stations in their markets -- that they would marginalize the stations' identities and "localism."
Interestingly, the alleged Fox incident concerns the New York/New Jersey/lower Connecticut market -- which in theory has more resources, higher ad revenues, and a more diverse range of news for stations.
The penalties are severe for TV stations that make false claims to the FCC. Yet, TV business operators exert pressure to look for big savings wherever possible -- even with a TV economy that's apparently on the upswing. While many stations had a nice financial reprieve this year, with surging 30-40% ad revenue gains, these media outlets are not out of the woods yet. Surely they are still not back to pre-recession 2009 levels.
Savvy TV executives believe stations should not only get more on the localism bus but accelerate that effort down the road, with so-called hyper-local news efforts. AOL and Google both believe that a host of small business advertisers -- non-traditional TV marketers - are looking to glom on to more community-targeted news and local consumers.
Fox Television Stations is one of the bigger TV station operators with, in theory, lots of resources at its disposal. No matter what the truth is, stations like WWOR-TV should not only offer a healthy swath of local news -- both for New Jersey and New York -- but should push its boundaries into more niche areas for long-term survival in a competitive and expanding digital media world.