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Shore's Channel 40 set to lose network affiliation

Channel 40, the television station at the Jersey Shore that is home to local heroes in weatherman Dan Skeldon and sportscaster Pete Thompson, is about to lose its identity.

Channel 40, the television station at the Jersey Shore that is home to local heroes in weatherman Dan Skeldon and sportscaster Pete Thompson, is about to lose its identity.

Dropped by Comcast's NBCUniversal as an affiliate, the station will no longer be NBC40 or broadcast NBC programming after Dec. 31.

And the familiar local newscast - operated by the Linwood-based Access.1 company under contract with California-based owners LocusPoint Networks - will no longer be seen on WMGM-TV after Dec. 31, according to a statement posted on the NBC40 website Tuesday.

But the statement said Access.1 hoped to preserve and even expand the daily newscasts, saying it had "taken steps to continue and expand our news product on a new broadcast channel."

The statement said Access.1 - which employs about 60 people and whose contract with LocusPoint to operate the station ends Dec. 31 - would take the current news, sales, management, and administration teams and seek a new broadcast channel to continue operations.

The company said it was hopeful that this expanded newscast would find a home (and financial backing) by the spring or summer of 2015.

The fate of the station - bought by a company that plans to sell the station at an FCC bandwidth auction - has been as shaky as the Revel.

Despite local objections, NBC did not waver in its plan to drop the affiliation that the station has held for nearly 50 years. An NBCUniversal spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.

Bill deKay of LocusPont also did not return a request for comment. The spectrum auction was originally scheduled for 2015 but has been pushed back to 2016. There was no word on what programming will be seen on the station after Dec. 31.

Roger Powe, station general manager, who has championed a "Friends of 40" membership drive to help save the station, said that he hoped more details would be available soon and that the future of the locally based newscast - with its locally based advertisers - would become clear.

The statement cited the end of the NBC affiliation in its explanation of the changes at Channel 40, which occupies Channel 4 on Comcast in the region, and shows much of the same programming as NBC10, the Philadelphia affiliate, which is also seen at the Shore.

The news, sports, and weather operations, however, are completely different. Channel 40 focuses on Atlantic City and Shore news, sports, and weather.

Skeldon, who also does forecasts on radio for Longport Media and developed a large following post-Sandy, recently took an additional post at SNJ Today, a digital operation in Millville.

The statement said the new operation would seek to expand to "nine counties in Southern New Jersey, filling a much-needed void for news, weather, and sports coverage here in South Jersey."

Local radio broadcaster Pinky Kravitz, who has a show on Channel 40 - Pinky's Corner - said that the company needed $3 million to relocate its operations, possibly even to Boardwalk Hall in a Today-like studio set-up. But as yet, no investors have publicly stepped forward.

"Stay tuned," the statement said.

There was no word on how many people will be out of work, even temporarily.

Tuesday night, the newscast, anchored by Michelle Dawn Mooney, soldiered on, reporting on the nor'easter and the unemployment crisis affecting Atlantic City.