Could Fox Television lose control of channel 9 (WWOR)? While highly unlikely, it is a distinct possibility now that the FCC has announced [PDF] that it is investigating allegations that Fox lied or willfully misled the Commission in filings. At stake are the company's license to air on both stations it currently owns.

Broadcast television stations are required by law to serve their community, and since the mid-80s WWOR has been based out of Secaucus and has, in theory, had a Northern New Jersey-focus. But the lure of New York is a strong one, and not everyone thinks WWOR has lived up to its requirements. In fact, an affiliation of groups called Voice for New Jersey (VNJ) has been very vocal—har, har—that WWOR has not lived up to its end of the deal. They argue that Fox has misrepresented "the quantity of local New Jersey news and public affairs programming broadcast by WWOR-TV after July 2009 as well as the number of employees who worked at WWOR-TV’s Secaucus, New Jersey facility during that same period." Which, if found to be true, is a major no-no. Besides letting a nip slip out on air (sorry Ms. Jackson!), an easy way to piss off the FCC is to lie to it.

Making things especially tricky for Fox is that it already is in the rare position, one which the FCC normally frowns upon, of not only having two major newspapers in a market (News owns the Post and the Wall Street Journal) but also having two major broadcast stations. The FCC granted Fox a temporary waiver of its newspaper-broadcast crossownership rules in 2001, and then gave it another temporary waiver that expired in 2007 (which is when VNJ began its campaign against the station). It has been airing without a waiver for the past few years without making any sign of divesture that we are aware of.

VNJ claims that Fox has been misrepresenting the amount of news coverage it devotes to the state which, since WWOR is the only private broadcast channel devoted to serving the area, has lead to a "lack of state identity, little examination of elected officials and limited community awareness." VNJ also says that Fox has been giving the FCC information about its Jersey staffing that is woefully out-of-date. WWOR claimed to the FCC it employed 250 people in its Jersey offices after publicly acknowledging major staff cuts (and reduced its nightly newscast from an hour to a half-hour after moving it to 11 p.m.).

Fox, which naturally says it “had neither the motive nor intention to deceive the Commission,” has thirty days to respond to the FCC.