by Michele S. Byers, executive director, New Jersey Conservation Foundation.
New Jersey’s budget crunch has extended its reach to New Jersey Network (NJN), the state’s public television station since 1968. NJN has become the place to go for a credible source of information, news and educational programs about New Jersey.
A bipartisan Legislative Task Force on Public Broadcasting is studying Governor Christie’s proposal to de-fund and privatize NJN, which includes transferring its broadcast licenses. The task force is scheduled to make its recommendations on October 15.
Several legislators on the task force have already introduced legislation to transfer or sell NJN’s assets. Another bill, however, would strengthen NJN and reorganize it within the state as the New Jersey Public Media Corporation.
NJN was created by the state Legislature in 1968 because the Garden State’s location – sandwiched between two of the largest television markets in the nation, New York City and Philadelphia – left it devoid of New Jersey-focused coverage. New Jersey news, events and culture played second fiddle on New York and Philly stations. At the time of NJN’s creation, New Jersey voters approved a bond issue to construct a broadcast complex and four transmitters to exclusively serve their state.
NJN’s mission, to inform and educate about public issues in New Jersey, has been carried out with enormous competence. NJN tells New Jersey stories, filling the programming void left by major metropolitan stations. With its nightly NJN News, and in-depth, hard-hitting documentaries and public-affairs programming like the 2009 Mid-Atlantic Emmy Award winners Su Salud Primero/Your Health First and Classroom Close-up, NJ: Men of Distinction, NJN remains the single public voice of Garden State citizens – a voice now needed more than ever.
NJN’s award-winning environmental documentaries, including The Highlands Rediscovered, The Race for Open Space, and Turning the Tide, have opened New Jerseyans’ eyes to the significant and threatened natural resources of the Garden State and the vital public issues of land development, open space preservation, drinking water protection, endangered species’ survival and more.
Many of NJN’s programs have aired on national public television, helping to boost tourism and change New Jersey’s image from that of an ugly industrial landscape to a place of historic importance and scenic beauty.
With the decline of print media and newspapers, quality public television focused on New Jersey is more critical than ever.
As state officials debate the network’s future, they would do well to note the results of a recent Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Press Media Poll. According to the poll, 88 percent of state residents feel it is important to have a television station that focuses on the Garden State, and 58 percent feel it’s very important. Even more telling is that 58 percent approve of using public funds to support NJN.
And NJN has successfully attracted and leveraged outside private dollars to augment its public funding base. To keep NJN and its New Jersey voice, urge the Task Force, legislators and Governor Christie to support a secured public funding base and keep its broadcast licenses.
Add your voice to help save NJN! Comments and questions should be addressed to Kevin J. Donahue, and Charles A. Buono Jr., Task Force aides, by calling (609) 984-7381, faxing (609) 292-0561 or emailing KDonahue@njleg.org or CBuono@njleg.org. Provide your comments well before October 15, when Task Force recommendations are to be issued.
Then, contact your state Senator and Assemblypersons, as well as Governor Christie. To find your legislators, go to www.njleg.state.nj.us/members/legsearch.asp. To send an email to the governor, go to http://www.state.nj.us/governor/contact/ .
And I hope you will consult New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s website at www.njconservation.org or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, if you would like more information about conserving New Jersey’s precious land and natural resources.
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