Altice moving News 12 Connecticut studio production to New Jersey

Only weeks after announcing plans to close a Shelton call center that employs hundreds of people, new Cablevision owner Altice is slashing jobs at its News 12 offices in Norwalk, moving production work there to Edison, N.J., with plans to keep a small number of reporters, photographers and support personnel based in Connecticut.

A source told Hearst Connecticut Media the restructuring will be completed by March and that station founder and anchor Tom Appleby is among the people being let go. Altice is also said to be moving its Westchester and Hudson Valley, N.Y., bureau operations to production studios on Long Island.

In an internal memo obtained by Hearst Connecticut Media, News 12 Networks President Patrick Dolan described News 12 as “a place that feels almost like family” and said the consolidation was a business decision. In his email to staff, Appleby said, “While today’s developments were a challenge to all of us here at News 12 Connecticut, they also served to show our mettle” and acknowledged “the wide range of emotions in the days to come,” praising his colleagues for producing a news program an hour after being told of the restructuring at 1 p.m. Thursday.

Appleby has been the backbone of News 12 Connecticut since 1984 as anchor, news director and general manager, with the studio having its offices above Altice’s Optimum retail store on Cross Street in Norwalk. News 12 Connecticut has won several New York regional Emmy Awards over the years, including two this past March for photography and arts news. In addition to its regular on-air and production staff, News 12 has offered internships and freelance work to area professionals over the years.

Local officials expressed disappointment. “I think this is a mistake by Altice to consolidate operations, because Cablevision’s strongest asset has been News 12 and that part of their family,” said state Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk. “We in Fairfield County have gotten very used to News 12 and have come to rely on it.”

In a statement forwarded by spokeswoman Deborah Koller-Feeney, News 12 said the relocation “will enable us to more effectively and consistently deliver high-quality hyper-local news for viewers in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.” Koller-Feeney declined to provide additional information on the record, including the number of staff members affected.

News 12 plans to maintain production studio space in Norwalk to accommodate interviews as local needs dictate.

Another Altice spokeswoman emailed a statement saying News 12 is “an important and valuable part of our business.”

Altice acquired control of Cablevision in June from founder Charles Dolan and his son James.

The senior Dolan endowed the Charles F. Dolan School of Business at Fairfield University.

In August, the company announced plans to consolidate its Shelton call-center operations that employ about 600 people.

News 12 has long been a major selling point for Cablevision and more recently Altice, covering breaking news as well as offering magazine-format shows exploring topics of importance to residents of southwestern Connecticut.

“We’re seeing a lot of this for a few years now, ever since it’s (become) easier to broadcast,” said Ben Bogardus, assistant professor of journalism at Quinnipiac University in Hamden. “The actual process of putting news together can be done anywhere.”

— an earlier version incorrectly stated Tom Appleby’s early role at News 12 Connecticut, where he was news director, general manager and anchor beginning in 1984.

Robert Koch contributed to this report.